A FORMER British National Party member turned town and county councillor has been rapped by a standards watchdog over racist Facebook posts and bullying.

Councillor Pete Molloy posted Islamophobic and racist material on social media, brought his town council into disrepute and bullied and disrespected two of its officers, a standards committee has found.

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He posted a link to an article containing a “white supremacist conspiracy theory”, the Durham County Council meeting was told.

The Spennymoor town councillor, elected to Durham County Council as an independent in May, has apologised for being “reckless”.

But in a Durham Council standards committee hearing, he denied being racist and claimed he faced “politically motivated” allegations.

Investigating officer Matt Lewin described Cllr Molloy’s Facebook posts as “on the wrong side of the line” between free criticism and an “attack on all Muslims, a denial of their right to live in this country”.

One of the posts from 2019 said: “We don’t want Muslims here and they don’t want us here.”

These posts, on Cllr Molloy’s personal Facebook page, should still be seen as published in his official capacity as it was publicly accessible and could receive “enormous exposure”, argued Mr Lewin.

He said: “It’s not done in private. It’s not the equivalent of a conversation with a close friend behind closed doors. It’s the opposite of that.”

In response, Cllr Molloy said the posts were merely expressing his personal opinions “in my private capacity as an individual” and never mentioned he was a councillor.

He said of the white supremacy-related post: “Just because I’ve shared something, it doesn’t mean I actually agree with the source of where that information has come from.

“When I’ve shared stuff I’ve just seen the headline and thought ‘yeah I agree with that’.

“I don’t agree with economic migration. It’s got nowt to do with race. It’s a numbers factor.”

He said he did not hate other races or think his race was superior, and his personal thoughts on national and international politics did not interfere with his councillor role.

The investigator also found Cllr Molloy was disrespectful and bullying towards the town council’s clerk and facilities manager.

These remarks, some on Facebook in December 2020 despite a previous warning, were described as unfounded, unfair, distressing, humiliating, undermining and embarrassing.

Cllr Molloy said he never intended to bully either of the staff members and was being “open and honest” or “trying to defend myself”.

“It could be perceived as being reckless. I’ll hold my hands up and I’ll apologise for that,” he told the committee.

He became emotional as he said: “Since I’ve been on the town council I’ve been targeted unreasonably.

“I’ve tried my best to do what is for the people in the town. I’ve tried to raise issues and concerns internally to no avail. I’d just had enough.”

He said he was “bombarded” with 10 complaints since his election to the town council in 2019, and believed most of these were “politically motivated because of my previous political affiliations”.

He added: “I’m now currently an independent. I’m not a member, supporter, representative of any political party.”

The committee upheld the investigator’s recommendations that Cllr Molloy had breached the town council’s code of conduct, but found he was a “dedicated councillor” who did his best for his community.

Under sanctions, Cllr Molloy is to give a written apology to the council officers and take part in mediation and training in equality and diversity.

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