AN election candidate “hi-jacked” a community group’s website by posting a polling day message.
Peter Pankhurst was yesterday accused of “attempting to undermine the democratic process” during last week’s Kirkburton Parish Council by-election.
The Green Party candidate added a banner promoting his campaign to Kirkburton and Highburton Community Association’s website.
Mr Pankhurst was elected to one of two vacant seats for the Kirkburton ward in Thursday’s by-election.
On polling day he posted a message on the association’s homepage reading: “16th Feb 2012 vote Green. The party that cares. The party that works for you”.
Association chairman Mike Greetham, who stood for Labour in last week’s by-election, accused Mr Pankhurst of “hi-jacking” the website.
He told the Examiner: “It is outrageous that anyone should try to undermine the democratic process by attaching fictitious political views to an organisation like the community association.
“Many years ago I was one of the founders of the association, and I am currently the chair. The group includes members of several political parties and we have always been very careful to keep party politics out of the picture.
“Whilst it is difficult to know when the site was hi-jacked, the hit counter on Thursday showed 815 people had viewed it, more than the 677 people who actually voted. Many of those seeing it would be local electors.”
Mr Greetham complained to Kirklees about the incident on Monday.
“I have informed the Kirklees elections office who should be very concerned about any unauthorised advertising,” he said.
“They are certainly concerned when unauthorised posters appear on our streets. Things like this undermine the democratic process as well as damage the reputation of voluntary organisations like the KHCA, who are totally innocent in all this.”
But a Kirklees spokeswoman said the council would not pursue the matter.
“The council is aware of this issue but does not intend to take any further action,” she said.
Mr Pankhurst’s party colleague Clr Andrew Cooper said he had ordered him to take down the election message as soon as he became aware of it on Thursday.
“I got in touch with Peter and told him he shouldn’t have done it,” he said.
“I’ve spoken to the association and there will certainly be no reoccurrence.”
But Clr Cooper added that the message is unlikely to have influenced the election.
“It was on the website for a very short time and I don’t think many people will have seen it,” he said.
“There’s probably only Mike Greetham who saw it. I think this is a bit of sour grapes from him.”
Mr Pankhurst, who runs the association’s website, was elected with 330 votes in the Kirkburton ward, alongside his Green colleague Rae Thomas, who won 364 votes.
Conservative Adrian Murphy came third on 261 while Mr Greetham was last with 199 votes.