Boston Borough Council’s leader has rubbished claims made by the town’s mayor that councillors did not want to meet with Muslims as he defended members’ decision to call for Coun Brian Rush to step down from his role.
Coun Rush will face an extraordinary meeting of the authority’s full council on Monday night following criticism over posts on his private Facebook page in which it is understood that in one of the comments he said he had no problem with the Muslim people of Britain, however called on ‘new entrants’ to undertake an oath of allegiance to Britain, it’s values and its population, adding that those who didn’t comply should be extradited.
In another, he is understood to have criticised several councillors at borough and county level and the town’s MP.
On Wednesday night, Coun Rush told The BBC: “I’ve not been a quiet councillor, having said that I have not subscribed to anything that would turn the community against me.
He told the BBC: “How can I possibly be anti-Muslim? I have made sustained efforts with the local Muslim community to meet with them. I have been trying to arrange a meeting with our councillors and all the time I get rebuffed. They will not meet with those people.
“I will not be standing down. I will be allowing judge and jury to sit on me and we’ll discuss it on Monday night and let’s see what happens.”
However, the council’s leader Coun Michael Cooper, has said Mr Rush’s claims that ‘they will not meet with those people’ were ‘totally not true’.
He told The Standard: “He implied that the rest of the members wouldn’t meet with the Muslim community - in fact there were two meetings scheduled.
“The first was cancelled due to a clash with the planning committee. Then, we had 12-14 people ready to go to a second meeting but that was then also cancelled due to building work at the municipal buildings.
“It was not that other members would not meet, it was that the meetings were cancelled - these things are out of members hands.
“He was making it sound like we wouldn’t do it and that’s totally not true.”
Mr Cooper also said that those calling for the extraordinary meeting to take place went further than the required five signataries.
He said: “The report makes it seem like there’s only five members, but there are widespread calls about this meeting to get something sorted out for the mayor.
“It’s totally cross-party. It is a majority of the councillors who are showing support.”
He said it was felt that Mr Rush had ‘crossed the line’ on a number of his posts.
“The main reason this meeting was called is because he has crossed the line as far as civic duty because when you are mayor you are supposed to be apolitical, you do not make political comment. and he has made political comment so we did not feel like there was anything else left to us.”
Since the meeting was first reported, local residents have made a number of comments in support of the Mayor - with some calling him a ‘lovely gentleman’ and praising their meetings with him. A number of commenters have called on him not to step down if asked to do so.
Others have questioned whether it is right that a post on what is deemed to be a private Facebook page and not shared publicly could be called into question in this way.
However, Coun Cooper said of Coun Rush: “He had more than 200 friends on Facebook that could see his post and those people then said things outside of his page the same as him, so it spread on out from those other people as well’.
He added: “It goes to his friends and then it gets passed on again - it spreads like wildfire.”
Coun Rush’s Facebook page is set to private, and no posts are visible to the public post after December 10, 2016.
The only item on the agenda for the extraordinary meeting, listed on the borough council’s website and scheduled to take place at 6.30pm on Monday, February 12, states: “That this Council is deeply concerned with the actions of the Mayor in posting offensive and political comments on his Facebook page.
“The Council believes the Mayor should reflect carefully on the words he has used.
“He has caused significant personal distress to those named and demeaned the great office that is The Worshipful the Mayor of Boston.
“The Mayor who is the 483rd person to hold this position of historic office, has sullied the role of First Citizen and champion of the Borough with petty, political point scoring that is factually incorrect.
“This Council calls for the Mayor’s resignation with immediate effect.”
The move has been proposed by Boston Borough Council leader Coun Michael Cooper and seconded by Coun David Brown. A spokesman for the authority confirmed that five councillors had to sign the call for action before an extraordinary general meeting could be called.
They said that if the vote was carried at Monday’s meeting, Coun Rush did not have to act in accordance with it, and could still choose to remain in his position until the end of his term.
The Mayor is supposed to remain apolitical throughout their term in office giving up, for example, party allegiances.
It is understood reports were initially made to Lincolnshire Police about the comments.
A spokesman for the force said: “We were made aware of a Facebook post which we were told caused concern to some individuals in the community. An investigation into this was initiated and found that no hate crime or any other criminal offence was committed.
“We have referred the incident back to the associated organisation as there will be no further police involvement.”
Some readers on social media who have spoken in defence of councillor Rush have called for people to attend Monday’s meeting to show their support.