The controversial leader of Glasgow Council is facing calls to consider his position after being reported to the Public Standards Commissioner.
Labour councillor Gordon Matheson is facing claims he forced a council official to break the law over a competition to redevelop Glasgow’s George Square.
According to the Sunday Herald newspaper, the leader of the Glasgow Council Labour group “repeatedly violated the Councillors’ Code of Conduct during the design competition for the £15 million project.”
The article follows a complaint by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) to the Public Standards Commissioner which includes claims from a former council official, Kerr Robertson, who was the council’s lead architect and projects director.
RIAS ran the £100,000 design competition for the George Square redevelopment project which saw six designs being shortlisted for the contract to redevelop George Square.
The Sunday Herald reveals that Mr Robertson has claimed that, despite the contest having to comply with EU procurement law, he was told six weeks before the final judging began that “Gordon Matheson [would] be allowed to choose the winning design”.
He also claims to have objected after he was told “to ensure the other jury members would fall into line with this”.
Anger at Mr Matheson’s handling of the competition process by RIAS was revealed by Newsnet Scotland last month after we obtained a confidential report detailing what RIAS claimed were serious concerns over the Labour councillor’s behaviour throughout the process.
The report detailed how Mr Matheson repeatedly ignored the advice of RIAS professionals and insisted that he chair the competition. The document went on to note that the Labour council leader repeatedly refused to abide by competition rules and convention and pushed for his own favourite design. The document also noted that Glasgow Council was suspected of breaching European procurement rules by leaking confidential information to the press.
The SNP are now calling for Mr Matheson to consider his position as Glasgow gears up for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Councillor Graeme Hendry, Leader of the SNP Opposition in Glasgow, said:
“Labour in Glasgow yesterday chose to attack the ex-Council officer who said Gordon Matheson tried to coerce him into breaking the law over George Square shows their desperation.
“I am calling on Councillor Matheson to give a personal assurance that neither he, nor anyone on his behalf will try to intimidate anyone else who may come forward to whistleblow on his or anyone else’s behaviour over George Square, planning issues or anything else.
“I would encourage any officers current or past who feel rules have been broken to come forward now this first allegation is in the public domain.
“There is no doubt that Councillor Matheson has damaged Glasgow’s reputation by his actions. He is no longer making the stories but is the story. With the Commonwealth Games coming up he should act in the best interests of this great city and let someone whose probity isn’t in question to lead us into the Games.”
A council spokesman told the Sunday Herald: “Even the RIAS make it clear in the complaint that they can’t find a rule they think has been broken and they acknowledge that the competition was well run.
“They are also clear that they have no evidence of anyone attempting to improperly influence the jury. What is clear is that there was no public appetite for a radical redesign of George Square and that whichever design won we would have gone with the public’s view.”
The Labour councillor has been hit by a series of controversial stories since replacing disgraced former council leader Steven Purcell who resigned after admitting to using cocaine and having a serious drink problem.
In January Mr Matheson was forced to issue a public apology after being caught committing a sex act with another man in a public car park. A complaint was sent by the police to the procurator fiscal, but no charges were levelled against the Labour councillor.
In February last year, Mr Matheson’s Labour group were involved in claims that a Labour colleague had been threatened that her disabled son’s apprenticeship could be affected if she refused to support the Labour group in a crucial vote.
After the local council elections last year it emerged that in the lead-up to the vote, the Glasgow Labour leader had made promises to the Orange Order to review council rules relating to restrictions on parades in the city.
Under the Labour party, Glasgow Council has been rocked by a series of scandals and accusations of corruption. Labour party members have faced police investigations into alleged drug dealing, sexual harassment and corruption.
There have also been revelations of public funds ending up in party coffers and lucrative contracts being awarded to Labour party donors.