Mayor who told meeting secretary to f*** off suspended after foul-mouthed rant

A mayor has been suspended as a councillor for six months after launching a foul-mouthed tirade and storming out of a meeting when his local credentials were questioned.

The meeting took place in Knighton.
The meeting took place in Knighton.

Mayor of Knighton Councillor Nick Johns was found guilty of several serious breaches of his town council’s code of conduct after calling individuals “f****** b******* and w******" at a public meeting to discuss the town's response to the coronavirus emergency in March last year.

A meeting of Powys County Council’s Standards sub-committee was called to decide whether Councillor Johns had misbehaved at the meeting at Knighton Community Centre, and if so what punishment to give him.

Committee members were told that the outburst by Councillor Johns happened about 40 minutes into proceedings on March 18, 2020.

It centred on an email he had sent to a member of the community centre committee about his attendance.

In it he had said that she was a newcomer, and that the town would be best served by the Knighton community support group, which was full of locals and could better serve the area.

At the meeting, his own local credentials were then questioned at which point, according to witnesses, he became volatile, stood up, and started pointing aggressively at people, and calling them “f****** b******* and w******.”

He then left the building and got into his car, but pulled up and re-entered the building for a second rant.

Concerns

As he was leaving for the second time Reverend Kevin Dare followed him out.

Rev Dare told the committee he had been concerned about Councillor Johns' safety and that driving off in a temper could cause an accident.

Louise Hardwick, who had been at the meeting as its secretary, also went outside.

Rev Dare said: “I was attempting to chat to him and calm him down before he drove off.”

They had chatted for a while with Councillor Johns airing his own concerns about the pandemic, then as he left, he turned to Mrs Hardwick and told her to “f*** off”.

In her evidence, Mrs Hardwick said: “When he had his first outburst, I asked him to calm down and not use this language.”

She explained when he turned to insult her outside the meeting, this was when she decided to call the police.

“I felt threatened and still feel anxious to this day,” said Mrs Hardwick.

A few days later, Councillor Johns received a formal caution from Dyfed Powys Police for the use of threatening, abusive words, and disorderly behaviour.

Mr Johns did not appear at the meeting to explain his actions or send a legal representative to argue his case.

Breach

Sinead Cook of the ombudsman’s office summed up the evidence.

Ms Cook said: “Although there are differing accounts from witnesses as to specific language used by Mr Johns, on balance the standards committee considered there was sufficient evidence to suggest that Councillor Johns used disrespectful and abusive language.

“Councillor Johns acknowledged during his interview that there clearly was a breach of the code.

“Although the outburst makes it unclear who the comments were directed at, it was clear it had an effect on all present.

“The behaviour towards Mrs Hardwick was bullying.

“Given Councillor Johns' role as mayor, and the purpose of the meeting to bring people together to discuss how best to assist Knighton in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, his behaviour was particularly shocking.”

Following deliberations the standards committee chairman, Stephan Hays, said: “We would not expect this behaviour of any town councillor – it is an aggravating factor that he is the mayor.

“It is our unanimous decision that we suspend Councillor Johns for a period of six months with immediate effect.”

Councillor Johns has been contacted for comment.

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