'Bullying and intimidating' York councillor made threats by email and was responsible for eight resignations

A York town councillor who engaged in a “bullying and intimidatory pattern of behaviour” breached his council’s code of conduct, a committee has found.

Coun Tony Richardson, a former City of York councillor, made repeated threats via email and in person to other members of Haxby Town Council, a joint standards committee hearings sub-committee was told.

The panel agreed with a report by independent solicitor Stephen Pearson, which found that Coun Richardson twice broke the council’s code of conduct, primarily due to his interactions with the council clerk, who later resigned, and council chairman, Coun Mark Guildford, in late 2019 and early 2020.

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Coun Richardson said he “completely and utterly” rejected the report.

Coun Tony RichardsonCoun Tony Richardson
Coun Tony Richardson
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Mr Pearson said Coun Richardson, who was ejected from town council meetings on several occasions, had acted in “a very bullying and intimidatory way” which was “excessive and unreasonable and goes far beyond the normal expectation of what can be permitted within council debates.”

In one instance, Coun Richardson, a Haxby councillor for 26 years, was charged with assault after approaching the clerk in November 2019. He was later found not guilty at Leeds Crown Court.

Coun Richardson said: “I’ve been bullied, harassed, chucked out of meetings for no reason, I’ve had to go to court…all because of a false claim.”

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Coun Richardson, who repeatedly interrupted and made accusations against the complainants and City of York Council’s monitoring officer, left Wednesday’s hearing around halfway through after being asked to do so by committee chairman, Coun Tony Fisher.

Coun Guildford said: “I think that the proceedings today have given you the small flavour of what I’ve had to deal with for the past three years. This is typical behaviour that has happened in council meetings which has disrupted our ability to conduct business.

“It’s placed a tremendous amount of strain on our council.

“We’ve had, by my recollection, something like eight resignations, and the majority of those are down to the fact that people no longer wish to participate in council meetings where Coun Richardson is present.”

Coun Fisher said: “There is no doubt that Coun Richardon’s behaviour contributed negatively on the overall impact of the functioning and reputation of Haxby Town Council.”

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As a sanction, Coun Richardson will be removed from any town council panels or sub-committees he is on for six months, and is removed from any outside bodies he has been appointed to by the council for the same period.

The town council must also undertake six-monthly reviews of its governance framework to “support its employees and mitigate against inappropriate behaviour and correspondence from Coun Richardson.”

Coun Fisher said: “It is hoped that by implementing these sanctions any personal conflicts will be resolved, acceptable standards of behaviour will be re-established and the council will run in a proper manner that will command the respect of the community.”

Speaking after the meeting, Coun Richardson said the outcome was “a foregone conclusion” and that the sanctions imposed were “absolutely ridiculous.”

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He said he would complain to the Local Government Ombudsman and would carry on attending town council meetings.

He added: “I’ll keep going until I die and I’ll fight them all the way - they’re a disgrace.”

Coun Richardson also rejected Coun Guildford's claim about him being responsible for people quitting the town council and said that he was leaving the hearing anyway because he did not want the monitoring officer overseeing proceedings.