Lib Dems suspend councillor over inappropriate e-mails

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A COUNCILLOR who was convicted of drink driving has been suspended from her party after being accused of inappropriate conduct towards a colleague.

Lib Dem Jacquie Bell is accused of sending a series of e-mails to East Lothian Council coalition partner councillor Stuart Currie.

Cllr Bell, 53, from Dunbar, who was banned from driving for three years in July after being found with twice the legal limit of alcohol in her system, had been warned by senior council officials last week.

Cllr Bell reportedly claimed Cllr Currie had ignored her repeated requests for important council information.

But although she was forced to write an apology to Cllr Currie last week, the local authority’s Lib Dem group has now ruled she was guilty of “a breach of party ethics”.

The suspension means Cllr Bell, a social worker, must act as an independent councillor while carrying out her duties as an elected member.

A council source is reported as saying: “An e-mail to a local paper was the last straw for the Lib Dems. She had been given a stern ticking off for the e-mails she had been sending to Stuart Currie and others.

“She had been e-mailing him at weekends and in the evening and the tone of the e-mails was less than friendly.

“Jacquie feels like she has been treated like a non-person by certain members of the council administration for the past six months.”

Sheena Richardson, chair of the East Lothian Lib Dem group, said: “This decision was taken due to a breach of party ethics by Cllr Bell, relating to a series of correspondence by her.

“The decision was agreed unanimously by the Liberal Democrat councillors and endorsed by the local party.

“Mrs Bell will remain as a councillor but she will not be a member of the Lib Dem group on East Lothian Council.

“I can categorically and emphatically confirm that the SNP group did not ask or request that any action be taken, but the information did come to us through our partners in the administration.

“As councillors we have to be able to work as part of a group and it was felt that her actions apart from the group created difficulties which prevented us from doing that.

“We decided that this amounted to a breach of party ethics.”

Mother-of-one Cllr Bell is reported as saying: “This is a very distressing time but I am investigating whether I can appeal this decision.”

She confirmed that following her suspension she is “undecided” about running as a Lib Dem councillor in next May’s elections.