Wednesday, 26 October 2016 05:35

Mike Russell challenges Argyll council ‘disaster’ over Breslin exoneration

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Local Argyll & Bute MSP criticises Argyll council “crisis” from Breslin case

ARGYLL AND BUTE COUNCIL’S targeting of an independent councillor has been “disastrous” and now requires an independent inquiry, according to local MSP Mike Russell.

Russell wrote to council leader Dick Walsh expressing his frustration at what he called the “expensive, bureaucratic nightmare” endured by councillor Michael Breslin over false allegations of misconduct levied at him by the council’s management.

In a fiery letter, Russell condemned the case as “disastrous for the council”, revealing “collusion” within its ranks to target Breslin, and causing a “crisis” for its reputation.

Breslin was vindicated at a recent hearing by the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life following various charges relating to leaked emails and critical press coverage of the council’s mishandling of the Castle Toward scandal.

In May 2015 there was unprecedented unity from four local MSPs - Michael Russell, Mike MacKenzie, Jean Urquhart, and John Finnie - local MP Brendan O’Hara, and seven local councillors in condemning threats to Breslin from council management.

They described the charges as an “attempt to silence Cllr Breslin such as this letter from the Council Chief Executive is in our view unwelcome, unwise, unjustified and unacceptable and represents a further worrying development in the departure of Argyll & Bute from best standards and practice of democracy and governance.”

The proceedings then cost Breslin thousands of pounds in legal fees to fight his case, which was the second time he had been vindicated by the commissioner.

Russell has now called for a public inquiry into the council’s handling of the case.

He added: “Specifically answers are required to questions concerning why and how these unprecedented complaints were instituted, the level of council resources required to draw up and take them forward, how such expenditure and staff time was authorised as it was never debated by Councillors, the issue of collusion between senior officials and senior councillors in instigating, preparing and taking forward these complaints and the use of threats of complaints and other sanctions (attested to by councillors) to ensure that councillors follow official advice.”

The council management alienated Breslin’s ward in Dunoon when they blocked the community buyout proposal for the Castle Toward estate - which saw years of community effort to bring jobs and investment to Dunoon rejected in favour of a private bidder.

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