A row has broken out after York’s two Conservative councillors were told they were “looking constipated” by another councillor during a meeting.
Haxby and Wigginton ward councillor Edward Pearson has been accused of making “personal insults” on Zoom’s chat function during a full council meeting on Thursday.
The meeting had been moved online due to the growing threat of the Omicron variant.
Councillors were informed that the private chat function was only to be used for administration and technical support issues.
But screenshots of the chat seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service show Cllr Pearson directing personal and political comments towards other councillors.
After Conservative councillors Paul Doughty and Martin Rowley abstained on a vote about sewage in York’s rivers, Cllr Pearson wrote: “Tories appear to be constipated.”
Cllr Rowley wrote back: “Cllr Pearson you have been asked and reminded several times to use this chat for non political purposes.”
Cllr Pearson replied: “I haven’t read anything about Zoom chats in the [council’s] constitution.”
Cllr Doughty said after the meeting: “It’s disappointing that a Haxby Lib Dem councillor found it appropriate to make personal insults after having already been warned that the Zoom chat application in the background of the virtual meeting should be for meeting procedure.
“Not that anyone should ever need to be told not to make personal insults.”
Labour leader Pete Kilbane said the comments were “pathetic”.
The issue of conduct between councillors at York has been raised repeatedly over the years.
Earlier this month, a Local Government Association official told the council to take its culture problems seriously and “deal with them once and for all”.
Tensions appeared to have been brewing from the beginning of the council meeting when newly elected Haxby Town councillor Ruth Pearson – who is Cllr Pearson’s mother – spoke in support of the council’s decision to build a new station for Haxby on Towthorpe Road, without declaring the link to her son.
Cllr Edward Pearson has been a vocal supporter of the Towthorpe Road location, while Haxby Town Council as a whole supports a location closer to the ring road.
Ruth Pearson did say she was speaking in a personal capacity, but councillor Jonny Crawshaw raised a point of order and said she should have declared her interest.
In the chat, Cllr Pearson said this represented an “attack” on his mother.
He wrote: “She’s her own woman and can speak for herself. I can’t believe the blatant sexism from York Labour.”
He said after the meeting that his mother had been “harassed”and that Labour had been “disrespectful and sexist”.
He added: “With the continued impact of the pandemic and so much at stake for the city, it is disappointing that Labour do not engage productively to work with us on tackling the issues that matter to residents.
“Instead they whip up a storm in a tea cup over a few harmless comments, made as a result of their behaviour, on a private chat.
“It is not the incorrect use of the chat they are upset about, but rather the inconvenient truths highlighted.”
Cllr Kilbane added: “This is indicative of the calibre of councillors in this administration.
“More importantly, it confirms when Lib Dem councillors are challenged as to their openness and transparency, they respond with personal insults, and claims of harassment and bullying.”