Claims that councillor verbally abused highways workers are thrown out
A COUNCILLOR has been cleared of allegations that he verbally abused two workers repairing a footpath outside his home.
Alex Baxter – who was also accused of making a racist slur about one of their colleagues – has spoken of his relief after being cleared of any wrongdoing at a special hearing yesterday.
The decision follows an investigation into claims he had breached North East Lincolnshire Council's code of conduct on March 28 last year.
The two workers, employed by Balfour Beatty, said Councillor Baxter swore at them and was "loud" and "aggressive" while they worked in Sophia Avenue, Scartho. A standards committee hearings panel at Grimsby Town Hall was told that Councillor Baxter – who strenuously denied the allegations – came out of his house and asked John McCurdy: "Is that all you're doing?"
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
When Mr McCurdy told him it was, he was then alleged to have said "Are you taking the p***?" and asking if they had "any f***ing bricks to do the job".
Mr McCurdy showed him a job sheet, informing him that Mr Mustafa was the manager instructing them, to which Councillor Baxter allegedly remarked: "He must have it done properly then."
Mr McCurdy said: "I assumed it was a reference to Mustafa not being English. Mustafa is one of our colleagues and he shouldn't have been spoken about like that by a councillor."
Mr McCurdy's colleague, Jim Todd, told the panel that Councillor Baxter did not shout but was "curt" and "a bit short-tempered".
He added: "If someone who introduces themselves as a councillor uses that kind of language it sticks with you."
At one point during the hearing, the panel went outside Grimsby Town Hall to view a re-enactment of how the workers' van was parked.
Part of the evidence centred on whether each worker could have heard all parts of the entire conversation, based on where they were standing at the time.
Councillor Baxter told the hearing he asked the two workers if they were going to carry on with the work and was told "we only do what we're told, mate".
He said: "There wasn't really anything of significance."
Addressing the claim that he used the phrase "taking the p***" he said: "It's gutter talk. It's not something I would use."
His wife Anne and his long-time friend and colleague, Bill McCann, the chairman of the local Armed Forces events team, both told how he very rarely used bad language.
Mrs Baxter witnessed the conversation but was too far away to hear what was said.
She added: "There was no aggression on either side as far as I could see. At one point, they were laughing so I assumed that Alex had said something funny. I never thought anything of it until he turned round and I thought they were laughing at him."
Councillor Baxter is the Conservative Scartho ward representative and was elected in May 2011.
The panel – chaired by council leader Chris Shaw, with councillors Melanie Dickerson and Ray Sutton – concluded that Councillor Baxter had been acting in his political role at the time and said elected members "should appreciate the difficulties" faced by council staff.
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Baxter said: "I am very grateful that I have been exonerated. It has been very stressful and I certainly wouldn't like to go through it again."
However, he insisted he bore no ill feelings towards the two complainants, adding: "I can understand how they maybe got into the position they did. I understand how difficult it is for council workers in the current circumstances.
"I hope we can all move forward, put this behind us and work together in a positive fashion."