A councillor who branded a colleague a “bitch” in an online meeting – unaware that she could be heard – has stepped down from her leading role on the council’s equalities committee.
Labour councillor Carmen Appich made the comment at a housing management panel when her former party colleague, Councillor Kate Knight, now an independent, joined the meeting.
More than 70 people were taking part in the meeting using Zoom software when the remark was made.
Participants usually “mute” themselves when they are not speaking but Councillor Appich could clearly be heard.
The episode – branded “bitch-gate” – is understood to have become the subject of a formal complaint under Brighton and Hove City Council’s standards procedure.
Councillor Appich emailed a public apology to everyone at the meeting, which was not listed on the council’s calendar of meetings held in public.
She has also stepped down from the council’s Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture (TECC) Committee, having previously been the chair.
She has spoken for Labour on the committee since the Greens took charge of the council in the summer.
Councillor Appich wrote: “I am deeply sorry for my unprofessional and inappropriate language at the housing management panel meeting on Thursday 1 October 2020.
“I very much regret the offence I caused to Councillor Knight and to all of you on the call.
“I will not make any excuses. My behaviour was inexcusable.
“I called Councillor Knight and wrote to her last week to apologise directly but I’m following up in writing to all who attended that meeting so you know I’m well aware of the seriousness of what I did.
“This was a horrible mistake and I want to assure you this won’t happen again.
“I deeply regret the anguish and upset I have caused Councillor Knight and any of you.”
Councillor Knight said: “I do not want to comment specifically on any incident. There is a formal complaints procedure that deals with the conduct of elected members and that should be allowed to run its course.
“However, I would like to say that, regardless of political differences, there is no place in public life for personal insults, slurs or abusive and discriminatory language.
“Such behaviour brings political parties and politicians into disrepute, especially at a time when there is already little faith in politics more widely.
“And as my mother always taught me, such language says far more about the person using it than it ever does about whoever is on the receiving end.”
Councillor Knight resigned from the Labour Party in July when she was facing suspension after being reported for anti-semitism over a number of posts on social media.
She strenuously denied the claims and said: “I abhor anti-semitism which, along with all other forms of racism, is a scourge that blights our society and every political party.
“I am not anti-semitic and I regret if anything I posted caused distress as this was not my intention.”
In response to the “bitch-gate” furore, Labour leader Nancy Platts said: “I was obviously shocked and disappointed to hear that this happened.
“It was unacceptable and below the standards I’d expect of any councillor.”
Councillor Platts added: “Councillor Appich has apologised in writing to all attendees of the meeting.
“She has also stepped aside from her role on the TECC Committee.”
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