Councillor accused of sending phallic symbol to campaign group
A councillor said to have sent a 'phallic symbol' to campaigners against a Haydock development could lose his armed forces champion role.
St Helens Council’s standards committee held an extraordinary meeting to discuss the complaints made about Coun Seve Gomez-Aspron, some relating to the campaign against the development of Florida Farm North in Haydock.
Thirteen complaints had been made about the Newton councillor, who used to be a teacher at The Deanery High School in Wigan.
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 allegation related to Coun Gomez-Aspron using an aubergine emoji – sometimes used as a phallic symbol – in a tweet to the campaign group opposing the development of Florida Farm North.
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.
The standards committee found 12 of the 13 complaints were upheld in full or in part, as they considered them to be in breach of the code of conduct for members.
The Localism Act 2011 only provides for censure as a sanction.
However, the committee members made extra recommendations for consideration by the council leader and Coun Gomez-Aspron.
They recommended that he be censured, replaced as armed forces champion for the council, removed from the council’s personnel appeals committee and that their findings in respect of his conduct be published.
The committee also “strongly” recommended that Coun Gomez-Aspron undertakes training on the use of social media.
Coun Barrie Grunewald, council leader, said: “The committee found Coun Gomez-Aspron guilty and followed procedures by censuring him.
“I expect Coun Gomez-Aspron to reflect on his use of social media as a result.”
The complaints were made to the council between November 2016 and September 2017, several related to various campaign groups.
Last year Coun Gomez-Aspron was cleared of making offensive remarks to a campaigning resident.
But in 2015, he was ordered to write a letter of apology to a constituent after insulting her in an online message. Coun Gomez-Aspron abbreviated words to form a grossly offensive swear word in a Facebook exchange.