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Editor branded ‘fire raiser’ slams councillor over Twitter tirades

A weekly newspaper editor has questioned a councillor’s fitness for office after he launched a series of personal attacks on social media.

Maidenhead Advertiser editor Martin Trepte has criticised Tory councillor Michael-John Saunders, who sits on the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, for “insulting and defaming me and questioning the integrity of my staff”.

In recent days Cllr Saunders has taken to Twitter to accuse Martin of being “dodgy” and a “self-appointed unelected fire raiser“, as well as accusing Advertiser staff of being “biased” and “undemocratic rabble rousers“,

It followed a story about council meeting in which the paperr reported on alleged personal attacks made against an opposition Liberal Democrat councillor by the Conservative member.

The front page of the Advertiser following last week's meeting

The front page of the Advertiser following last week’s meeting

It is understood two residents have made formal complaints to the council about Cllr Saunders’s behaviour on social media since the meeting, although the Advertiser has not filed one itself.

In February, HTFP reported how council leader Simon Dudley had told a group of schoolchildren “don’t believe everything you read in newspapers” after the Advertiser reported how the authority was looking at ways to fill a £13m ‘black hole’ in its budget.

Some of the tweets by Cllr Saunders

Some of the tweets by Cllr Saunders

Some more of the tweets by Cllr Saunders

Some more of the tweets by Cllr Saunders

Of the latest tweets by Cllr Saunders, Martin told HTFP: “When it comes to holding the local authority to account on behalf of our readers we take our responsibilities very seriously.

“So it’s disappointing when the response is to try to discredit us with attacks on the integrity of myself, my staff and our paper. We’re thick skinned enough to shrug this off but the councillor uses the same tactics with the public.

“His tweets clearly go far beyond what is acceptable conduct for a councillor, let alone one in a senior cabinet position, and raise serious questions about his fitness for any kind of public office at all.”

In March, Cllr Saunders was cleared over a previous Twitter spat in which he had called a woman a “silly person” and described her as an “anarchist” after she criticised council actions on the social networking site.

The authority’s deputy monitoring officer Mary Severin concluded he had not breached the councillors’ code of conduct in making the comments, describing them as being part of a “lively debate”.

The Tories currently hold 51 of the council’s 57 seats.

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  • June 29, 2017 at 10:25 am

    Generations of editors have had to deal with idiots like this. The best course, however, is not to rise to the bait. Just steadily keep doing the job instead. Local politicians who behave like this ALWAYS fall.

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