A MAYOR who was deposed in a row over a cheque for a dinner has hit back.
Robert Bennett was forced out as head of Mirfield Town Council by fellow councillors on Tuesday.
They were angry that he handed over a £2,000 cheque to Dewsbury and District Golf Club, which hosted the council’s annual dinner on March 14.
Fellow town councillor Martyn Bolt told the Examiner: “Comments were made about the quality of the meal. We’ve had our annual dinner at the golf club for many years and this is the first time we’ve had any problems.
“We resolved to hold the payment back until Robert Bennett spoke to the golf club. He was then supposed to report back to us at the next committee meeting.”
Mr Bennett gave the club a cheque for nearly £2,000 – around 90% of the bill.
On Tuesday the council passed a vote of no confidence in the mayor.
But yesterday Mr Bennett insisted he had done nothing wrong.
He said: “I was asked to check with the golf club whether any complaints about the food had been made on the night.
“I also said that if anyone wanted to make a complaint in writing, I would give it to the club. There was one verbal statement that the food had been bland but no-one complained in writing.
“Some people told me they were more than satisfied with the meal.”
Mr Bennett met golf club officials last month to discuss the issue.
He said: “They told me that they weren’t aware of any complaints.”
Mr Bennett then decided to pay most of the bill.
He said: “I was concerned that the council was putting itself in a situation where it could be said to be refusing to pay, which could lead to legal action. I wasn’t prepared for that to happen.”
And he stressed that no taxpayers’ money had been used. He said: “Ninety people paid the council £25 a head for the dinner so not a single penny of Mirfield Town Council money has been paid out.”
Mr Bennett added: “I have behaved in good faith to protect the council’s reputation.”
On Tuesday he was due to hand over the mayoralty to Keith Sibbald after completing his year in office.
He said: “I had other business so couldn’t attend. My duty only covered the first five minutes of the meeting.
“I found out the following day about the vote of no confidence but I have no comment on that.”
Mr Bennett believes he has been targeted since an email he sent last year was leaked. It included a remark about Muslims “causing mayhem with explosives”.
He has apologised for the comments.
He said: “Since that email was leaked there were a number of incidents which soured the remainder of my mayoral year. One or two people decided that I was a target to have a go at.”
But Mr Bennett, who represents Hopton ward, insists he will remain on the council.
He said: “Absolutely, I will stay on. Now that I’m no longer mayor I can express my opinions on some of the things going on.”
Mick Thorpe, general manager of Dewsbury and District Golf Club, said yesterday that there had been no complaints about the food on the night of the dinner.