An election candidate has been interviewed by police over allegations of campaign irregularities.
Colin Campbell was an independent candidate for South Tyneside Council’s Cleadon Park ward in South Shields at May’s local elections.
He polled 376 votes, losing to Labour’s Coun Jim Foreman, with 726 votes, and independent June Elsom, in third place, with 673 votes.
But Mrs Elsom, wife of Cleadon Park councillor George Elsom, subsequently made a complaint to the police regarding “lies and factual inaccuracies” in a leaflet Mr Campbell put out.
She also questioned the legality of a poster Mr Campbell put on display in a newsagent’s shop at The Nook during the campaign challenging his opponents to donate their attendance allowances to a local school.
Two detectives subsequently called at Mr Campbell’s home in Cleadon Meadows, Cleadon Village, to make him aware of the complaints.
No formal action has been taken, but Mr Campbell has labelled the allegations “vindictive and petty”.
Mrs Elsom, of Parkshiel, South Shields, said she raised concerns with police because of the “personal nature” of the statements Mr Campbell made in his election literature, labelling some of his comments “misogynist”.
Mr Campbell said: “I had a home visit from two detectives who do election complaints. Apparently, I had made an election misdemeanour.
“I put a flyer in a newsagent’s window at The Nook. It said I would be giving my allowance of £1,000 a month to Ridgeway Primary School and asked whether June Elsom and Jim Foreman would do the same.
“It was claimed that was bribing the public.
“Apparently, I didn’t say at the bottom of the leaflet who it was promoted and printed by, which is a legal requirement.
“The detective said giving me some advice for the future would be enough and that the bribery claim did not stand up.
“I regard contacting the police over this as just petty and vindictive.”
Mrs Elsom said: “There were two elements to the complaint.
“There were false and inaccurate statements, and there was the inference that, if I was elected I would do what George told me to do, which I regarded as completely misogynist.
“It suggests that I don’t have a mind of my own. The inaccuracies included his statement that George was the leader of UKIP in South Tyneside, which he has never been.
“They were personal statements made by a person I don’t even know. No one should have a right to do that.”
Mr Campell denied he was a mysogynist, saying he was merely questioning how independent a husband and wife councillor team would be.
A spokesman for the police confirmed that Mr Campbell had been spoken to and that no further action is to be taken.
This is the second time police have been asked to investigate events during last May’s election in South Tyneside.
Police also investigated a complaint by Coun George Elsom that Labour leaders in South Tyneside used town hall resources to promote the party’s local election campaign.
Police confirmed last week that they would not be taking any further action after an investigation.
Source – Shields Gazette, 15 July 2014
Town Hall bosses today faced a renewed call to stop using taxpayers’ money in their pursuit of the notorious ‘Mr Monkey’ internet blogger.
The website first appeared in 2008, making malicious claims about certain political figures in the borough.
South Tyneside Council backed a bid to discover the identity of those behind the Mr Monkey blogs on behalf of four plaintiffs who came under attack – South Tyneside Council leader Iain Malcolm, Coun Anne Walsh, the late councillor David Potts and council regeneration boss Rick O’Farrell.
It instructed Washington DC lawyers McDermott, Will & Emery to find who was responsible for the website, with the firm producing a dossier which said Mr Monkey was most likely a two-person operation and that a libel action would be “highly successful” if pursued through UK or US courts.
But to this date – and at a cost of about £150,000 – Mr Monkey has yet to be unmasked, some six years after the site first appeared.
That has infuriated George Smith CBE, president of South Shields Conservative Association, who has called for immediate action to prevent “further misuse of council taxpayer’s money.”
Mr Smith believes the four the plaintiffs in the case – not the public – should have funded the legal action.
Town Hall officials say the legal action was taken because the council has a “duty of care” to protect employees.
But Mr Smith has written to PricewaterhouseCoopers, which is to conduct South Tyneside Council’s annual audit, demanding it steps in.
He says: “Although any authority may indemnify individuals in ‘defending himself against legal proceedings brought by a third party’ they are ‘prohibited from indemnifying members or officers for the cost of taking legal action for slander or libel.’
“I will be objecting to these payments at the audit but you may wish to take immediate action to prevent any further waste of council taxpayers money.”
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “This legal action was taken because the council has a duty of care to protect its employees from the kind of intimidation and harassment caused by the wilfully false and defamatory statements published on the blog.
“South Tyneside Council is satisfied that Section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972 gives the power to take the action that has been taken.”
June Elsom, who stood as an independent for Cleadon Park in last week’s Local Elections, asked Northumbria Police to investigate the matter, but a force spokesman said there was no cause for a criminal investigation.
The spokesman said: “We have received correspondence raising concerns around legal costs incurred by South Tyneside Council in relation to the ‘Mr Monkey’ blog.
“Advice has been given that as it stands, this is not a matter involving criminality and there is therefore nothing to indicate a criminal investigation should be launched at this stage.
“Should another body looking into the matter decide a referral to the police is appropriate then an investigation would be carried out.”
As part of the council’s courtroom pursuit of ‘Mr Monkey’ a former South Tyneside councillor was hit with a whopping £40,000 legal bill last year.
Mr Khan had launched an American courtroom bid to halt the search for the controversial blogger, which he said was a waste of public money.
But San Mateo County Court dismissed his anti-SLAPP motion (Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation), describing it as “frivolous”.
The council is chasing Mr Khan – who has always denied being behind the ‘Mr Monkey’ blog – for the extra legal costs it incurred as a result of his unsuccessful challenge.
A council spokesman said the authority was continuing to pursue that demand – although it is not known how much, if any, of the amount owed had so far been paid.
> As far as I was aware, Mr Monkey stopped publishing in 2009. Still online, though, at: http://mrmonkeysblog.wordpress.com
Source – Shields Gazette, 27 May 2014
A social landlord has made a cash-back guarantee to South Tyneside voters as he throws his hat into the ring at next month’s local elections.
Colin Campbell is to stand as an independent for Cleadon Park on Thursday, May 22.
And he is committed not to accept any of the monies he would receive from his role as a ward councillor.
Instead, he will donate the cash – about £1,000 a month – to Ridgeway Primary School, to be spent on equipment and school trips.
Mr Campbell, 61, who has a portfolio of 20 properties for rent across the borough, called on other prospective councillors to make the same commitment.
He said: “I want to get back to what being a councillor should be about – the desire to serve your community.
“I’d challenge other prospective councillors to make the same pledge. Any of the allowances I receive can be used by the school as it sees fit.”
Mr Campbell stood for UKIP at last year’s local elections, finishing a creditable third with 25 per cent of the vote in Cleadon and East Boldon, where he lives.
He said: “I have let my membership of UKIP lapse. If the party had 1,000 Nigel Farages I would have stayed onboard. Sadly, that’s not the case – although I do wish the party well in the forthcoming elections.
“I plan to knock on as many doors as I can. Labour has 49 of the 54 wards on the council, and it’s so important that there is a dissenting opposition in the council chamber. I hope to be that voice.”
Other candidates in the ward are June Elsom (Independent), Jim Foreman (Labour) and Barbara Surteees (Conservative).
Source – Shields Gazette 29 April 2014