A mayor had a gambling habit when he pocketed £220 of takings from an ice cream van during his community’s celebrations of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, it was claimed yesterday.
Senior Coun Andrew Williams allegedly depended on loans from payday lenders to tide him over while serving as Ripon’s First Citizen in 2012.
A jury was told Williams had put on a suit and his gold chain of office to hand out prizes on the evening of Ripon’s Jubilee festivities that June.
York Crown Court was told that in return for selling ice creams at the event John Taylor, of Harrogate-based C & M Ices, had agreed with council bosses by email to hand over 20-25 per cent of the day’s takings.
When he cashed up, he reckoned he owed the authority about £220, said prosecutor David McGonigal.
He put the cash in a clear money bag with a couple of his business cards and went wandering around the market square looking for someone from the council to give it to, the jury heard.
Mr Taylor spotted a local councillor Stuart Martin and tried to give it to him. But he refused to take it and pointed out Williams, 43, who was standing nearby, Mr McGonigal continued.
He added: “The defendant was wearing his gold chain of office around his neck and was therefore easily identifiable.
“Mr Martin pointed to Mr Williams and suggested Mr Taylor give him the money.
“Mr Taylor walked across to Mr Williams and gave him the money. That’s the prosecution case. Mr Williams’s case is he never received the money - that he never received it at all.”
The court heard that if Williams did receive the money he had a duty to pass it to Ruth Terry who was responsible for banking it for the council.
But no money was received.
“The prosecution’s case is Mr Williams kept the money for his own purposes,” added Mr McGonigal.
He added that when interviewed by police Williams said he was under financial pressure partly because his partner was pregnant and had stopped working.
“It was partly caused by a gambling habit,” the prosecutor continued.
“He was taking out payday loans on occasion to tide him over until his next pay cheque came in.
“Because of that financial pressure it gave a motive for Mr Williams to keep that money.
“Instead of handing that money over to Ripon Council – as he should have done because it was their money - he pocketed it.”
The court heard when the missing money was noted by the council’s jubilee accounting committee in September, Williams offered to chase it up.
It was alleged he was claiming to still be chasing the vendor for payment in November.
The jury heard that towards the end of 2012 the matter was reported to police who began making inquiries.
Then in April 2013, Ruth Terry was opening the post when she came across an envelope containing £220 in £10 notes. There was no indication who sent it so she handed it over to police who arrested Williams on June 23.
Mr Taylor said while he was looking for someone to pay he was told “Give it to the Mayor” so he did so saying: “Here you go. Thanks for a good day. Here’s a contribution. I handed it over and he put it in whatever pocket. I did not really pay any attention. I just turned around.”
He said he did not hang about because he still had a lot to do packing up. “It was a hot day and I had had a queue twice as long as this court room,” he added.
Williams, the chief executive of a divorce law firm, of Pine View, Locker Lane, Ripon, denies one offence of fraud.
The trial continues.