Redcar council leader censured over conduct during dispute with Easington residents

Councillor Mary Lanigan, leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council, has been formally censured over her behaviour in a long-standing row with residents who overlook a village cenotaph. Credit: Google Maps / Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council

A council leader has been formally censured over her behaviour in a long-standing row with residents who overlook a village cenotaph.

Councillor Mary Lanigan was said to have "shouted like a banshee" at a council officer and lied to police about an attack involving her husband.

The council's standards committee previously heard Mrs Lanigan and her husband Mike had been in a long-running dispute with neighbours in Easington, East Cleveland, which had seen Mr Lanigan convicted of assault and criminal damage.

She was found to have breached the code of conduct, and the panel recommended she be censured.

This was applied by a special council meeting, where 28 members voted in favour of her being censured and 14 voted against.

Cllr Lanigan has resisted calls to quit and suggested she would continue as leader - a post she has held since 2019 - until local elections in May at least.

One of the complainants, Lisa Miller, said she had suffered harassment "like you would not believe" from cllr Lanigan and her husband, and added she thought she was not fit to be leader.

She previously told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that she had been on friendly terms with Mr Lanigan. However, after she asked him to stay away during coronavirus restrictions, he ripped up trees she had planted at the bottom of her drive.

Cllr Lanigan has been accused of "supporting thuggery" by watching on as her husband assaulted a council officer and Mrs Miller's husband Shaun in separate incidents at the village war memorial.

Video footage shows Lanigan pushing Mr Miller to the ground at the memorial before repeatedly kicking him.

The panel heard that Cllr Lanigan had:

  • Lied to police telling them that her husband had been attacked by by Mr Miller when the opposite was true.

  • "Shouted like a banshee" at a council officer after a hawthorn hedge at the site was inadvertently damaged during maintenance. She then stood and watched "poker faced" as her husband Mike Lanigan threw a three foot tree at the officer's head, which caused soil and grit to enter his eye.

  • Made angry demands of another staff member in telephone calls which "shocked and disgusted" a colleague who overheard.

  • Falsely claimed Mr Miller was a bully and was cruel to the family dog.

It also said she had acted improperly on "multiple occasions" by seeking authorisation from the council to allow her husband to burn rubbish at the village cenotaph.

The panel said there had been "serious" breaches of the council's code of conduct, finding she had failed to treat others with respect, attempted to use her position improperly to secure herself or another person an advantage.

It added that she had conducted herself in a manner contrary to the council's duty to promote high standards of conduct among elected members, and had effectively brought her office and the council into disrepute.

The events in Easington led to the conviction of Richard Lanigan at Teesside Magistrates Court in March last year for punching and kicking Mr Miller on 15 August 2021, and causing criminal damage, for which he was fined and given a two-year restraining order, which was later extended to five after an unsuccessful appeal.

Cllr Shelagh Holyoake, who chaired the panel, described the matters faced by Cllr Lanigan as a "grave issue" which had been taken seriously by the council and dealt with strictly in line with its code of conduct.

She said the decision to recommend censure had "not been reached lightly".

She added: "More than ever we want residents to have confidence in the council and in their councillors - how can we realistically ask for that trust and support when this is the way the leader acts?"

Cllr Steve Kay, a long time cabinet colleague of Cllr Lanigan, said had seen her reputation badly damaged and "ruined" as a result of the outcome of the proceedings being made public.

He suggested the panel of three members were not sufficiently qualified to carry out their task and said the council should have debated the issue.

He said: "This council has been emasculated because we have been denied the right to debate a fundamental issue of whether or not Cllr Lanigan breached the code."

Cllr Kay claimed the council leader was being punished twice, first by the panel and then the council, which he suggested was "vindictive" and "rubbing salt in an open wound".

Cllr Alec Brown, the leader of the Labour group, claimed panel members had suffered sleepless nights in coming to a conclusion over Councillor Lanigan's conduct.

He also said councillors had to be "mindful of the victims in this" and said the decision made should be respected.

Cllr Lanigan, who told the panel she "crossed a line", was not present at the meeting because she had a conflict of interest and was told she could not sit in the chamber during the debate.

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