Labour’s Matheson criticised after ‘misconduct’ councillor handed lucrative SPT position

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
The leader of Glasgow City Council has been criticised after a Labour councillor who was reprimanded by a charity watchdog over a half million pound payoff scandal, was handed a lucrative position on the board of a public body.
 
Labour group leader Gordon Matheson’s decision to replace one Labour councillor on the board of Strathclyde Passenger Transport with another has been slammed by Glasgow MSP John Mason.

Glasgow Shettleston MSP Mr Mason has hit out at plans to replace Councillor George Redmond as chair of SPT with fellow Glasgow Councillor Jim Coleman who, alongside Redmond, was found guilty of misconduct by the charities regulator, OSCR.

Following a Glasgow City Council reshuffle, Labour leader Gordon Matheson has removed Redmond as Chair of SPT, which comes with a £20k salary, and is proposing to replace him with Baillieston Councillor, Jim Coleman.

Mr Mason has written to the Chief Executive of Glasgow City Council, George Black, to question the decision and ask what training the Councillors have had following the damning report by OSCR, which found them guilty of “misconduct” and slammed their actions as “wholly inappropriate”

Earlier this year it emerged that George Redmond and Jim Coleman, as well as former Labour Councillor Cathie McMaster, were members of a board which awarded a half million pound package to former Chief Executive of Glasgow East Regeneration Agency (GERA) Ronnie Saez.

According to charity regulator the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR), the decision to award the ‘golden goodbye’ of £500,000 to Saez, constituted “misconduct” on the part of the board who took the decision.

The OSCR concluded that the action 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.”

As part of OSCR’s recommendations, it was advised that – at the very least – Councillor Coleman and Councillor Redmond should undertake: “training in their section 66 duties to ensure that the risk of similar misconduct recurring in other charities with which they are involved as charity trustees is minimised.”

SNP MSP for Glasgow Shettleston, John Mason, said:

“For some time now I have been calling for both the councillors found guilty of misconduct – George Redmond and Jim Coleman – to be removed as Glasgow’s reps on outside bodies.  Yet now Labour is proposing to replace one with the other as chair of SPT.  You couldn’t make this stuff up!

“My first reaction is to feel sorry for SPT.   It is a perfectly reputable body charged with improving public transport in the West of Scotland.  So what has it done to deserve this?  Why should SPT be made a dumping ground for Glasgow Labour councillors found guilty of misconduct?

“Members of the public will be mystified by how all this works.  Even if a Labour councillor has to be chair, can the other 11 local authorities not find a more appropriate councillor who hasn’t been found guilty of financial misconduct?

“We know that the chief executive of GERA was paid £500,000 which he was not entitled to under the watch of Councillors Coleman and Redmond.  What confidence can the citizens of Glasgow and Strathclyde have in SPT when the organisation’s budget is looked after by such councillors who are so tainted with misconduct?”

Anger 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.

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.