Town mayor resigns after court finds him guilty of stealing £19 from Keighley Cougars

THE mayor of a Yorkshire town has resigned his position after being found guilty of stealing players’ wages from a rugby league club where he volunteered.

Councillor Michael Westerman, 49, who has now stepped down from his post as Mayor of Keighley, had denied one charge of stealing £19.70 from Keighley Cougars Rugby League Club on August 15 last year.

But he was found guilty after a two-day trial at Bradford magistrates’ court.

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Westerman, who became mayor in May, was given a two year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £600 costs.

A Keighley Town Council spokeswoman said he had resigned as mayor as soon as the sentence was given. Deputy Mayor George Metcalf will now take over day to day duties until a new mayor is elected next month.

The court heard that the councillor for Morton and Sandbeds was caught on video stealing wages from the team coach’s office. Staff had set up a hidden camera on police advice. When police searched him they found a stolen £5 in his pocket.

The club’s general manager Helen Carter told the court that she called Westerman to view the footage of him stealing.

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“He said he was really embarrassed, he’d never done anything like this before,” said Miss Carter. He kept repeating the phrase but would not clarify what he had done.

Following the case, fellow councillors said the case had been an embarrassment and that the mayoral office had been sullied.

Councillor Ron Beale said the case had made him ashamed to come from Keighley. Other colleagues said Coun Westerman should not have stood for mayor, nor accepted the post, while the court case was pending.

The Keighley Town Council spokeswoman said Councillor Westerman had “resigned from his position with immediate effect for personal reasons and for the benefit of the Town Council.”

She said Councillor Westerman could remain as a member of the council as he was not given a suspended or custodial sentence of more than three months.