THE mayor of Workington has threatened the town’s Constituency Labour Party with legal action after she claimed they accused her of “running off” with party funds – allegations she has strenuously denied.

Sources close to Janet King, including those with links to the party, believe she is being “scapegoated” over claims of missing cash because of her husband’s past as a conman.

Several insider sources have said that deputy mayor David King’s criminal history would make his wife an “easy target” if any money had indeed gone missing.

It was revealed earlier this year that Mr King had been jailed for conning vulnerable women out of money two decades ago, but he now claims to be a reformed character.

Solicitors writing on behalf of the town mayor have branded any suggestion their client was responsible for any missing money as “wholly untrue”, “defamatory” and “capable of being harassment”.

And another inside source, who did not wish to be named, said: “There appears to have been some conflation of historical and recent events, suggesting inappropriate behaviour without any evidence.

“As a result of this, Mrs King is being unfairly blamed when her previous services to the Labour Party would contradict these rumours.”

The couple also claim to have been the subject of a campaign of harassment after Mrs King was elected to the Stainburn and Clifton ward, ousting Allerdale Council’s deputy leader Mark Fryer.

Mrs King had been a Labour Party candidate but stood as an Independent amid allegations of “bullying” within the Workington CLP.

Shortly after the election shock result, newspaper cuttings revealing Mr King’s criminal past were placed inside the official parish newsletter of Our Lady and St Michael’s Church in Workington without the knowledge or permission of the clergy – with the culprit caught on camera.

The church has refused to reveal the name of the person responsible for circulating the information about Mr King but confirmed a member of the Labour Party had subsequently apologised.

Mrs King was treasurer of the Workington CLP for six years with “no issues” reported during this time and has insisted she handed over all the books, cheques and other information.

She said she could provide evidence including spreadsheets that she has “done nothing wrong” – and that all the accounts were left in good order.

The mayor said any allegations were “absolutely untrue” – and there was more than £3,000 in the accounts when she handed them over.

She added: “I have had my name dragged through the mud for no reason. I have always had a good name and people hold me in high esteem. And suddenly this baying mob of people I perceived to be my friends are determined to destroy me.”

Mrs King has insisted she made up all the accounts to the end of March before leaving the role of treasurer for the Workington CLP.

She said she then placed a copy in a plastic file, together with a memory stick, the relevant cheque book and other supporting information.

The mayor said this plastic file was left at the Trades Hall to be passed on to members of the Workington CLP, though sources close to the party have claimed this subsequently “went missing” or “was lost”.

It is understood the defamation threat from the Kings centres on comments said to be made by a member or members of the Workington CLP in a meeting held in August, which were then reported to them.

A letter from Mrs King’s solicitors addressed to Councillor Michael Heaslip, secretary of the WCLP, demands a “written assurance” that the accounts were indeed in order and the allegations of financial impropriety were “untrue”.

Mr Heaslip called a very special meeting of the executive committee, which was held on Tuesday, to discuss the legal threat.

However, he has declined to reveal details of any missing money, whether the Workington CLP would be involving the police, whether any allegations were actually made against Mrs King or whether the party would be issuing the assurances demanded.

He said: “I can confirm I have not circulated any letter I received in my capacity as secretary of Workington CLP beyond the members of the executive committee who manage the business of the CLP, and therefore must have such

correspondence placed before them.

“If someone has divulged details of the confidential business of the executive committee to other unauthorised persons that is a disquieting matter which I’m sure the executive committee would want to investigate.

“I regret that I am not authorised to comment on the substance of any such letter or response as it is confidential to the parties involved.”

But in an email seen by the News & Star, Mr Heaslip claimed that “a number of people who have been publicly critical of the Kings” on social media had also received solicitors’ letters “in an attempt to bully them into silence”.

Police have been approached for information but have been unable to confirm whether a criminal investigation is underway.