A COUNCILLOR who told 'persistent lies' to cover his mismanagement of a local fireworks event has been given a conditional discharge after admitting misconduct in a public office.

Jon Rathmell's barrister described the offence as a “bizarre set of circumstances” and the judge said the 42-year-old had been trying to impress colleagues rather than being motivated by any financial gain.

The court heard how Rathmell was a chair, then vice-chair, of Nunthorpe Community Council in Middlesbrough, and in 2018 he set about organising the firework display with a budget of £1,500, up from £1,000 the previous year.

Sam Faulks, prosecuting, said the defendant booked a local firm to supply the fireworks but when the owner clarified he could not make it on November 5, but could do November 6, Rathmell went ahead with the earlier date and let them off himself.

Teesside Crown Court heard he forged an email from the supplier, agreeing the November 5 booking. He also bought £2,000 worth of fireworks and not the £1,500 agreed by the council.

The defendant then persuaded the community council treasurer to withdraw £1,500 cash to pay the bill, but did not settle it immediately, instead forging another receipt from the firework supplier for £2,400.

Details of the forged documents emerged when the fireworks business owner met officials over the unpaid bill in July 2019 and the police were called in.

The court heard the £1,500 cash was in an envelope and he had not kept it for himself.

Rathmell, who has left the community council but remains an Independent on Middlesbrough Council, admitted a single charge of misconduct in a public office.

Paul Cleasby, defending, said Rathmell was of good character, had done charity work and was heavily involved in public service during the lockdown.

Mr Cleasby said: “It is a bizarre set of circumstances where he has ruined his reputation and caused himself a whole host of problems because he didn't deal with something he couldn't deliver.”

Recorder David Kelly accepted there was no financial motivation and said the damage to Rathmell's reputation was punishment enough.

The judge told him: “You were seeking to impress your colleagues by making promises you were unable to fulfil.”

He was sentenced to a two-year conditional discharge for his 'persistent lies'.

Rathmell, of Mallowdale, Nunthorpe, had pleaded not guilty to three charges of fraud and forgery involving the use of fake invoices submitted to a community council. The prosecution offered no evidence in relation to those allegations and not guilty pleas were recorded.