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Senior officers threaten defamation action against councillors over remarks at meeting on staff transfer

Two Bristol councillors have said they face defamation actions from senior council officers over remarks made at a meeting considering a staff reorganisation.

The BBC has reported that Conservative Richard Eddy and Liberal Democrat Gary Hopkins respectively compared the officers to the Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels and accused them of not telling the truth.

Monitoring officer Tim O’Hara is reported to have referred the matter for investigation, but the council refused to confirm this or comment on any other aspect of the case.

According to the BBC, lawyers for the council's director of workforce and change, John Walsh, and head of facilities management, David Martin, have served the two councillors with claims demanding a retraction, public apology and damages.

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The dispute concerned the proposed transfer of some staff to the council’s wholly-owned Bristol Waste operation.

Cllr Eddy said: “Cllr Gary Hopkins and myself utterly reject the allegations.

“Moreover, Bristol City Council’s director of legal services agrees with us that the comments were made by us at a formal council meeting at which we were representing Bristolians and our constituents.

“Accordingly, we are covered by the council’s insurance cover and the council has put us in touch with outside lawyers and the insurance company will cover any legal expenses and, potentially, any legal damages (which we very much doubt).”

Cllr Hopkins said: “I will have plenty to say in the near future, but not now.”

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