A MEETING to co-opt new members on to Whitby Town Council descended into farce when three of the candidates pulled while the votes were being cast.
Helga Marrs and Richard Ineson – the only two people who had put themselves forward for the two vacancies in the Stakesby ward – sensationally withdrew their applications while the votes for and against them were being counted.
The votes cast were five for and seven against Mr Ineson and three for and seven against Ms Marrs, meaning they had not gained enough votes to be co-opted on when Free Whitby campaigner Nigel Ward handed a letter to Mayor Coun John Freeman from Ms Marrs, written prior to the meeting, saying she no longer wanted to be considered.
Mr Ineson then declared himself out of the running, saying: “I will make it easier and withdraw.
“There is no point doing this when it is all cut and dried.”
Couns Tom Brown and Ian Havelock walked out of the meeting in protest and in a further twist when the votes were being cast for the two vacancies in the town north ward, Mr Ward, who was one of the four candidates, also pulled out.
As a result the Stakesby ward still has two vacancies and councillors will discuss at the next full council meeting what to do next.
The votes cast for the remaining wards were: town north – F O’Leary (0), J Stangoe (10), P Trumper (10), N Ward (withdrew); town south – H Coughlin (9), J L Risdon (0), L Walker (1); West Cliff – W Jones (7), G Kilpatrick (3).
The validity of the co-option procedure had been questioned because the deadline for applications had been missed off a public notice which was later reissued.
Earlier in the evening the Mayor made a statement responding to criticism that vacancies were being filled by co-option in
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stead of election and that the correct procedures hadn’t been followed.
He also said it appears confidential council documents available only to members were being shown to third parties putting the council at risk of breaching data protection laws.
Coun Freeman said: “It is for the members the council to decide how and when it (co-option) is carried within the bounds set by the electoral office at SBC.
“In my opinion the clerks followed the procedure within the bounds that were set by the council and that any error did in fact result in more members of the public being made aware of this process by the resultant press coverage and interest than we could ever have wished for adequately fulfilling the requirements of the adopted procedure.”
After the meeting Mr Ward added:“It was a stitch-up. It was astonishing to see a cabal of unmandated Councillors colluding to prevent candidates with a total of 337 votes in the recent election from serving the people of Whitby.”