Complaint to East Herts Council accusing Sawbridgeworth mayor Greg Rattey of racism dismissed by monitoring officer
A complaint accusing Sawbridgeworth mayor Greg Rattey of being racist has been dismissed by East Herts Council's monitoring officer.
Cllr Rattey, who is a Sawbridgeworth town councillor and lives in Bishop's Stortford, has been a campaigner for gay and human rights for several years.
He was accused of breaching the councillors' code of conduct by admitting on social media app Nextdoor that he had once belonged to "an intrinsically racist organisation" although he now regretted this.
The complainant further criticised Mr Rattey for posting that "the most homophobic people [he] had met were black men" and that the comment was "intrinsically racist/inflammatory in nature and likely to stir bad feeling towards black men".
It was alleged that the post was in breach of the code of conduct of both the district and town councils.
In revealing his decision to Cllr Rattey, James Ellis, East Herts Council's head of legal and democratic services and monitoring officer, highlighted the exact wording as: "Interesting that the most homophobic people I have encountered in my life have been black men. You'd think they'd be the opposite given the prejudice they have experienced."
Mr Ellis felt the only potentially relevant paragraph of the East Herts code was 4.11 – "always treating people with respect, including the organisations and public you engage with and those you work alongside".
He stated that although the post was not clearly directed at the complainant, he believed he must consider whether what was said was racist in the first place.
But he ruled that although he could see how "such a post could be misconstrued, the precise words... do not in my estimation amount to a racist comment".
He added: "The words 'I have encountered in my life' make it clear that you are talking of your own life experiences as a gay man; it is not a broad brush characterisation that all black men are homophobic, only that of all the homophobic people you have met a majority fell into that particular demographic."
Mr Ellis continued: "You reinforce this in your written response to the allegation... when you said 'I do not believe all black men are homophobic'.
"This being so, I do not consider there to have been any breach of the code of conduct and do not consider that the matter should be referred for investigation."
Mr Ellis stated that in making his decision he had liaised with the council's 'independent person' Nicolas Moss, who was appointed under section 28 of the Localism Act 2011, and that his decision was final and there was no right to appeal.
An East Herts Council spokesperson said: “We take code of conduct complaints extremely seriously, following the processes set out in the Localism Act, which includes consultation with an appointed independent person to reach a decision.
“After careful consideration, we found no breach of the Sawbridgeworth Town Council code of conduct.”