Feuding residents of a Somerset town dragged their war of words into the pages of their local newspaper – but not through the usual channels of the news columns.
Tony Canvin and Niall Connolly put their hands in their pockets to pay for provocative adverts in the Western Gazette to get their points across.
Mr Canvin set the ball rolling by paying for a quarter-page advertisement in the five-edition weekly last week, with a sarcastic “apology” for his years of helping the community as vice-chairman of Somerton Town Council.
This week his fiercest critic Mr Connolly upped the stakes by placing a half-page ad, claiming that questions over the council’s conduct were still unanswered.
Mr Connolly, author of the blog Muck&Brass reported the council to the external auditor in 2009, raising concerns about its transactions during the financial year of 2008/2009 when Mr Canvin was vice chairman.
The subsequent audit report, which had already been covered in depth in the Gazette’s news pages, found that “unlawful” decisions had been made and that unofficial meetings took place behind closed doors.
Mr Canvin stepped down from the town council in a mass resignation in 2009 and was one of four men arrested but later released without charge over suspected fraud.
The businessman admitted his advertisement was sarcastic after he was asked to publicly say sorry during a council meeting. He maintains he has done nothing wrong.
Western Gazette head of content Emma Slee said: “In these most unusual circumstances, we worked very closely with our lawyers to ensure the advertisements were legally sound without diminishing the customers’ message.
“The audit issue has been covered extensively in the news pages and we have given all parties the opportunity to comment, so we were somewhat surprised by these paid-for statements. It seems those involved in this long-running dispute felt the need to take their arguments to a new level.”