By a Newsnet reporter
Two Glasgow Labour councillors have been accused of being unfit to represent the city after sanctioning a half million pound payout to a regeneration agency boss that was later ruled as 'misconduct'.
The ruling by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) followed a year long investigation into the decision to award a 'golden goodbye' of £500,000 to former Chief Executive of Glasgow East Regeneration Agency, Ronnie Saez.
The OSCR concluded that the actions of the board members - three of whom were Labour councillors - were “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."
Ronnie Saez landed a package worth around six times his salary after being made redundant from his post as chief executive of Glasgow East Regeneration Agency (GERA). His golden goodbye comprised a "severance payment" of £42,000 and a £470,000 boost to his pension, which included a discretionary £208,000.
The pension top-up was paid for using reserves intended for the redevelopment of a school in Dalmarnock, a deprivation blackspot.
On leaving GERA, Saez set himself up as a consultant, and according the the Herald, briefly went into business with former Labour MSP Frank McAveety – according to the firm’s website one of its clients was Glasgow City Council. Mr McAveety left the partnership and is now a Glasgow Labour Councillor.
Saez was not a council employee during his time at the charity, but had previously worked at the council. He asked for his tenure at GERA to be treated as a council employee for the almost seven years, which cost GERA an extra £208,000 towards his pension.
Two of the Labour Councillors criticised in the ruling are current serving board members on Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT). SNP MSP John Mason, who lodged the complaint, has said that both are unfit to represent Glasgow City Council on any such boards.
The MSP has now called for Councillor Jim Coleman and Councillor George Redmond to be removed from any charities, boards or bodies on which they represent the Council.
Quizzed last year, Jim Coleman said the deal was "routine" and added, "We must have felt he deserved it,".
Commenting, Mr Mason, said:
“This report is a damning indictment of the Labour Councillors who have blatantly misused public money in one of the most unacceptable ways possible.
“The sad reality is that GERA’s first and foremost aim on its mission statement was to ‘relieve and prevent poverty’ for people living in the East End – not well-off chief executives.
“Even if part of the payment was a binding obligation, OSCR is clear that £232,708 was not a requirement.
“That money should have been helping poorer people, not richer people. If proof was ever needed that Labour has lost touch with reality, then this, frankly, is it.
“OSCR states that ‘charity trustees as a body are collectively or corporately responsible’, the trustees ‘breached their section 66 duties’, and ‘this is considered misconduct in the administration of the charity.’
“Therefore, surely Glasgow City Council must act immediately to remove Councillor Jim Coleman and Councillor George Redmond from any charities, boards or bodies on which they represent the Council.
“This report makes quite clear that they have misused public money and this cannot be allowed to happen again.
“Perhaps Johann Lamont could reclaim some much needed credibility by publicly distancing herself from these two Labour councillors in Glasgow who have squandered taxpayers’ money.”