Labour Councillors referred to Standards Commissioner over half million pound GERA payoff


john mason arms  By a Newsnet reporter

Two Glasgow Labour Councillors, found guilty of misconduct after they sanctioned a half million pound payoff to a former charity boss, have been referred to the Public Standards Commissioner.
The two Councillors, George Redmond and Jim Coleman, as well as former Labour Councillor Cathie McMaster, were referred by MSP John Mason who claims the three may have breached the Councillors’ Code of Conduct.

According to charity regulator the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR), the decision to award a ‘golden goodbye’ of £500,000 to former Chief Executive of Glasgow East Regeneration Agency (GERA) Ronnie Saez, constituted “misconduct” on the part of the board who took the decision.

All three councillors were members of the board which awarded the half million pound package.

The OSCR concluded that the actions of the board members was “wholly unsatisfactory”.

The regulator’s report said: “We consider the actions of the charity trustees in this instance constituted misconduct in the administration of the charity.

“However, the payment has already been made and the charity is in the final stages of being dissolved.  We find this position wholly unacceptable but, unfortunately, have no powers to recoup the funds for use in the charitable sector.”

Following the ruling, Mr Mason who is the SNP MSP for Shettleston, accused Mr Coleman and Mr Redmond of being “unfit to represent the city”.  Mr Mason also used his weekly video blog to call upon Glasgow Council to take action and remove Redmond and Coleman from boards and charities on which they represent the local authority.

Commenting on his complaint to the Standards Commission, the East End MSP said:

“Whilst OSCR have decided not to apply to the Court of Session to disqualify these individuals from acting as charity trustees in the future, I do feel that the actions of Councillor Redmond and Councillor Coleman may have breached certain aspects of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct and I have referred a complaint to the Standards Commission for investigation.

“Glasgow City Council needn’t just wait for a response to that complaint, though – they must now remove Redmond and Coleman from SPT, Clyde Gateway and Glasgow Community Safety.”

Anger has surrounded the generous package given to Mr Saez after it emerged over £232,000 which had been earmarked for redevelopment of a school in Dalmarnock, a deprivation blackspot, was instead diverted into his private pension.

The organisation set up to replace GERA has now taken the decision to close the only out of school care project in Parkhead.  Locals angry at the discretionary payout have started a petition demanding Mr Saez hand back what they describe as his “massive inappropriate severance package”.

It also emerged that in September 2011, following his generous payoff, Mr Saez entered a partnership with ex Labour MSP Frank McAveety when the two became directors in another charity Divercity (Scotland) Ltd, which listed Glasgow City Council as one of its clients.  Mr McAveety resigned his directorship in November 2011 and has since been re-elected as a Glasgow Labour Councillor.