A month-long investigation by Sheffield Council recently cleared Labour councillor Neale Gibson of being connected to an account using the name ‘John Blake’ and the handle @johnbwalkley.
Sheffield Council claims councillors running fake Twitter accounts falls outside of code of conductThe council’s legal director Gillian Duckworth ruled “it was not definitively clear that the alleged false account @johnbwalkley belongs to Councillor Gibson” after receiving a complaint about an alleged connection to the councillor, who represents the Walkley ward and is a cabinet adviser for transport and development, from tree campaigner Sally Goldsmith.
In an email to The Yorkshire Post, Coun Gibson said he had no connection with the John Blake account, which was recently deleted. “I was found not to be connected with a particular Twitter account. As I have always said, I only have one account,” he said.
The John Blake account had repeatedly sent derogatory messages to anti-tree felling campaigners and the city’s Lord Mayor, Green Party councillor Magid Magid. The account, which was deleted from Twitter last month, was initially set up using a stock photo of a middle-aged model taken from the internet before this was changed to an image of a tree.
The council ruled that even if it could have been proved the John Blake account was connected to Councillor Gibson, such behaviour would fall outside the code of conduct for elected officials.
That decision has been challenged by complainant Sally Goldsmith, who has asked the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman to investigate.