Mayor kept rule breach under wraps

Mayor of Wigan councillor Billy Rotherham
Mayor of Wigan councillor Billy Rotherham

THE Mayor of Wigan has admitted a town hall Code of Conduct breach - which he then tried to keep under wraps.

Coun Billy Rotherham forwarded an email to his son who was representing one of two rival bids to take over a redundant council building.

This breaks conduct rules - especially as the e-mail wasn’t addressed to him in the first place - in his role as a councillor.

He then urged the local authority’s standards committee keep the subject out of the public domain.

Coun Rotherham also refused to take up the complainant’s goodwill gesture suggestion of making a charitable donation.

The email issue was brought to the attention of the council’s standards ad hoc sub-committee by Mike Cotter, who runs Winstanley Sports Club.

He said that three councillors - the late Rona Winkworth, Billy Rotherham and Clive Morgan - forwarded his e-mails concerning his bid for the take-over of the former Anthorn Road community centre in Winstanley, to a a third party or parties. This was more than four years ago - before Coun Rotherham became first citizen and after Coun Winkworth had held the post.

Coun Rotherham admitted that he sent an e-mail, originally addressed to Coun Winkworth, to his son Shaun, the chairman of Winstanley Warriors FC who also wished to make use of the site.

The sub-committee ruled that although the allegation revealed a potential breach of the code of conduct, it should not be investigated further and instead an informal resolution should be reached between both parties.

While the minutes of the hearing refer to the sending of multiple e-mails, the Mayor has only admitted to and apologised for sending one.

Coun Rotherham, who was not present at the hearing, told the Evening Post: “This incident occurred two years ago.

“I abide by the sub-committee’s decision completely. I forwarded the e-mail (which wasn’t marked confidential) with the best of interests.

“It was not my intention to breach any confidentiality. However, I accept that I have done this inadvertently and I apologise for any offence I may have caused.”

Mr Cotter also asked that Coun Rotherham donate to charity, but the sub-committee said it was unable to enforce this because such requests were not within its remit.

The minutes of the hearing show that the committee denied the Worsley Mesnes councillor’s request to keep the complaint private.

Mike Cotter said: “As Coun Winkworth was my ward councillor, I e-mailed her to complain about the lack of notice to bid for Anthorn Road, not knowing her involvement.

“She sent these to Coun Rotherham and he sent at least them to his son.

“These were confidential e-mails. If I had complained about the council, they should not be sent to anyone else.

“I was dismayed that he wanted to keep the complaint quiet - he abused his position as a councillor and this should be in the public domain.

“I accept Coun Rotherham’s apology. I have no doubts that the majority of the councillors are honest and hard-working,”

An investigation - started before Coun Winkworth died last summer - concluded that she had failed to comply with part of the Code of Conduct to by passing on the e-mails to Coun Rotherham.

A hearing into the claims against fellow Winstanley member Coun Morgan is yet to be fixed. He was today unavailable for comment.