RYEDALE district council members have called for the resignation of a fellow councillor after he made comments that the suicide of a former soldier was “the best use of a gun I can think of”.
The comments, made by town and district councillor Tommy Woodward on the Hunt Saboteurs Association Facebook page, were raised at full council last Thursday.
Councillor Luke Ives, chairman of the council, said the council had received “an unprecedented number of complaints”, but that there would be no investigation under the council’s code of conduct.
He said: “The comments have caused a public outcry. The comments relate to conduct in a private capacity not as a councillor, but in my opinion the comments still have an adverse impact on the reputation of Ryedale District Council and its members.”
Coun Woodward said he had apologised to the family and friends of Alan Ellis, from Lancashire, who shot himself after learning he was being sued more than £40,000 over a debt.
Despite previously saying that he would not be resigning from his positions on Ryedale district and Pickering town councils, a motion was put forward to censure Coun Woodward and calls were made for his resignation.
The motion, put forward by Councillor Linda Cowling, council leader, sought to “disassociate Ryedale District Council and its district councillors from the comments of Councillor Tommy Woodward”. Coun Cowling said: “I believe that CounWoodward should resign. What makes it worse is that Coun Woodward has refused every opportunity to apologise for these words. I am disgusted that any member could be so heartless.”
Councillor Edward Legard said that if he was in Coun Woodward’s position he would have resigned already.
He said: “I was really shocked, really saddened, outraged and appalled by what I read. I had enormous respect for Councillor Woodward before that.
“If he had an ounce of integrity and courage he would acknowledge that it was wrong.
However, while all councillors agreed that the comments were wrong and offered their sincere condolences to the family, Councillor John Clark said that it was wrong that an investigation had not taken place. “It seems a strange way of trying to look at justice. This is going straight to the sentencing without any hearing, without any investigation and without any evidence,” he said.
Coun Paul Andrews said: “The fact that he has these views does not prevent him from being a good businessman or a good workman and over the last few years he has shown himself to be an excellent and very intelligent councillor.
“He has done wrong but let us keep it in context.”
There were calls made for the council to take action. However, Coun Cowling explained that Coun Woodward could not be sacked because he was elected rather than employed.
Councillors approved the motion with 19 votes for and five abstentions.
Coun Woodward declined to comment further on the matter at the meeting and when contacted by the Gazette & Herald.