Councillor to face standards board after string of complaints

A string of complaints have been made about a controversial councillor, which include his use of emojis and comments made on social media.

Wednesday, 6th December 2017, 11:48 am
Updated Monday, 11th December 2017, 5:20 pm
Seve Gomez-Aspron

Twelve complaints have been made about Labour councillor Seve Gomez-Aspron, who represents Newton and formerly taught chemistry at The Deanery High School in Wigan.

He will go before an extraordinary meeting of St Helens Council’s standards committee on Tuesday and could be censured if he is found to have broken the code of conduct.

Complaints were made to the council between November 2016 and September 2017, several related to various campaign groups.

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The majority were about Coun Gomez-Aspron’s use of social media, including alleged inappropriate and disrespectful comments and his use of swear words, emojis and emoticons.

One report related to Coun Gomez-Aspron using an aubergine emoji - sometimes used as a phallic symbol - in a tweet to a campaign group opposing the development of Florida Farm North in Haydock.

Two people felt he had been offensive to women in a separate tweet referring to “dogs” made the day after the controversial planning application was approved.

Another person got in touch with the council several times, first to complain about a photograph he posted on Twitter and then comments on Facebook.

The day after the complaint about the Facebook post, the complainant said someone threw eggs at their house.

Another complainant said the councillor put a photograph of her and her husband on Facebook with the words “All the kings horses and all the kings men”, which she thought implied they looked like Humpty Dumpty.

The allegations have been investigated by Jan Bakewell, head of legal services and deputy monitoring officer at the council. Coun Gomez-Aspron was interviewed in September and provided written responses, which are in a report for the standards committee.

He said he believed some of the complainants were associates and members of greenbelt protest groups who actively campaigned for other political parties and did not like being challenged.

He said his tweet about “dogs” was a joke, but not at the expense of women, and had been auto-corrected when he typed a different word.

Regarding the couple’s photograph, he said he had posted the comments but with a picture of a wall that had been knocked down, and claimed someone had altered the original. He provided a screenshot of what he claimed to be the original posted in April, but it was dated “just now”, the report said.

Coun Gomez-Aspron said the tweet using the aubergine emoji had been directed at someone who had set up a fake profile in his name.

The report concluded all the complaints, apart from elements of three of them, appeared to be “justified”.

But it said there was “no evidence” to link Coun Gomez-Aspron to the incident where eggs were thrown at the house.

The report states: “The investigation is satisfied that, on the balance of probabilities, Coun Gomez-Aspron breached the St Helens Code Of Conduct For Members by failing to treat members of the public with respect and conducting himself in a manner which is contrary to the authority’s duty to promote and maintain high standards of conduct of members.”

Last year Coun Gomez-Aspron was cleared of making offensive remarks to a campaigning resident, as the standards committee could not be sure he actually made the comments.

But in 2015, he was ordered to write a letter of apology to a teenage constituent after insulting her in an online message. Coun Gomez-Aspron abbreviated the words “see you next Tuesday” to form a grossly offensive swear word in a Facebook exchange.