A DUP councillor’s suspension for “bullying” conduct towards a female colleague resulted from a signage row in which he accused another councillor of having links to loyalist paramilitaries.
Colin Kennedy, of Ards and North Down Borough Council was suspended for six weeks following a probe by the local government standards commissioner.
Fresh details of the dispute in Bangor which led to his sanction last month have been revealed following the release of the watchdog’s full report.
Mr Kennedy was described as “aggressive and intimidating” towards Noelle Robinson at a meeting in the Signal Centre after she said she intended to give a prototype ‘Newtownards’ sign to their council colleague.
Ms Robinson, then an independent councillor, said Mr Kennedy followed her into the car park and continued the disagreement after she left the venue.
She said that when she asked why her colleague should not be given the sign, Mr Kennedy said the person “was in the UVF”.
She told the watchdog Mr Kennedy also said that her colleague’s “friends were drug dealers and thugs”.
Former councillor Noelle Robinson
Ms Robinson later told the individual what had happened and they made a complaint to the standards watchdog.
Mr Kennedy denied he had said during the incident in November 2016 the individual was a member of the UVF, but he claimed the councillor had “connections” with local paramilitary groupings.
DUP councillor Kennedy denied he had failed to comply with the local government code of conduct.
He acknowledged Ms Robinson’s interpretation of their exchange in that she was offended and upset but he said at no time did he intend to come across in a bullying or intimidating fashion.
Acting commissioner Ian Gordon found Mr Kennedy had breached the code and his conduct was likely to diminish public confidence in his position as a councillor.
A statement from the commissioner’s office last month said: “The acting commissioner found there was sufficient evidence to show that the other councillor felt intimidated and offended by the behaviour of Councillor Kennedy which was bullying and harassing in nature.”
Mr Gordon noted mitigating factors, including that Mr Kennedy had not brought his council itself into disrepute, there had been some cooperation with the adjudication process and there had been no further incidents since.
It was also noted Mr Kennedy had a previous good record as a councillor, had been willing to apologise and there was no ongoing bad feeling between him and the other councillor.
However, Mr Gordon noted the incident’s “serious nature and deliberate conduct, with a lack of insight by the councillor as to his actions”.