A TOWN council already facing a £300,000 bill to settle a bullying claim from an employee is now being sued for harassment by one of its own councillors.

Solicitors acting for Labour councillor Mandy Thompson have written to Peterlee Town Council advising that the member for the Passfield ward is taking legal action for personal injury.

The letter states that Cllr Thompson has suffered from harassment and misfeasance in public office, and her human rights have been breached.

The legal action is the latest twist in an increasingly bitter dispute at the council that has already seen the town clerk Jane Russell threaten to take the authority to an employment tribunal after claiming she was bullied by councillors, including Cllr Thompson.

The Northern Echo understands the clerk was offered more than £200,000 to settle the claim, with the authority also facing legal costs of about £100,000.

Launching her own legal action, Cllr Thompson said there was a "vendetta" against her after she began asking questions about the running of the authority.

The councillor said she had reported the alleged harassment to the police, adding: "The vendetta has included silent phone calls and anonymous correspondence to my home, foul mouthed abuse in the street, plus verbal attacks, harassment by email and threats of violence to me and my family.

"A police harassment warning notice has been issued to one person previously linked to the council.

"This is all because I represented the electorate and tried to protect the public purse on their behalf."

Cllr Thompson is also unhappy that a council meeting - where her personal information was discussed - was secretly recorded and the recording then posted on-line.

The councillor complained to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) about the incident.

Although the ICO did not take the formal action, officials wrote to the town council expressing concerns and warning the authority about its future conduct.

The councillor said she had already identified two local good causes which she would donate money to if she won the case.

A spokeswoman for Peterlee Town Council said they were unable to comment on Cllr Thompson's legal action.

Durham Police confirmed they had received allegations of harassment from a Peterlee woman and were investigating.

The Major of Peterlee, Mary Cartwright, has previously said she and colleagues within the North East Party believed Cllr Thompson and Cllr William Jeffrey, who was also named in the town clerk's bullying claim, should stand down.

Both councillors have vehemently denied bullying the clerk.