In a night of rare drama at Selkirk Community Council, councillor Nik Wirsten walked out after the chairman damned his letter about local police as “wind and piss”.
Chairman Graham Easton also called for Mr Wirsten’s resignation after the meeting heard he had signed his letter, complaining about local officers, on behalf of the whole council.
As the Victoria Halls’ panto took to the stage, protagonists in another show filed into its committee room: Mr Wirsten, sitting at the end of the long table, was joined by Sergeant Robbie Noble and Constable Roy Brown, who sat quietly facing him.
Business began in the usual orderly fashion, with Kathleen Beaton co-opted to the “threadbare” council and all agreeing chairman Graham Easton could serve two four- year terms. But the air tensed when Sgt Noble read out a letter of complaint to Selkirk’s community police officers from Mr Wirsten.
Since the letter was signed by an elected community councillor, Sgt Noble stressed it must be taken seriously: hence his presence with PC Brown, who gives Selkirk’s monthly crime report at each meeting.
Mr Wirsten’s letter alleged a “drop” in the local police’s crime solvency rates, response times, and a “patchy” presence at meetings, personally blaming, in insulting tones, Sgt Noble, and in particular, PC Brown.
In reply, Sgt Noble calmly argued police figures showed crime solvency stayed more or less constant (52 per cent this year and 54 per cent last year). On response times, and the attacks on PC Brown, he added: “Up until this letter, I believed the community officer was doing a good job.”
He concluded: “Is this a true reflection of how Selkirk Community Council feels, or is this a personal letter of dislike of the police?”
In reply, chairman Graham Easton said: “I’m very, very angry.”
Staring at Mr Wirsten, he continued: “It’s a betrayal. It’s unprofessional. It’s defamatory. It’s wind and piss. You’ve breached the code of con duct. We require you to consider resigning as a community councillor.”
Mr Wirsten replied: “I am resigning after this meeting. I want nothing more to do with it.”
Scottish Borders Councillor Michelle Ballantyne told Mr Wirsten: “You’ve let yourself down. This council is about working together for the good of the community. That letter is a breach of trust of the people around you, because you haven’t checked out how they feel.”
One by one, Selkirk’s community councillors expressed their horror and shame at the letter, and members of the public at the meeting joined in their praises for Selkirk’s “fantastic” police officers, especially PC Brown.
Their words reassured Sgt Noble that Mr Wirsten’s letter represented the feelings of one individual, not the council, so no action would be taken.
Councillor Gordon Edgar then requested Mr Wirsten leave the room, due to his “derisory” comments.
In a scene a community councillor later described as a dishonourable discharge, Mr Wirsten took a long walk around the table to the exit.
Yesterday, when asked whether he had resigned in writing, as required , Mr Wirsten told The Wee Paper: “I have not resigned. I am undecided, I’m swithering. I have five weeks until the next meeting.”