Councillor’s complaints against his colleagues

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A VETERAN councillor has lodged official complaints against three elected colleagues, in senior positions with Scottish Borders Council, claiming they breached established standards of behaviour.

Hawick’s David Paterson, who is the only Independent member not aligned to the ruling administration at Newtown, wants the council’s standards committee to investigate his allegations against Michael Cook (Ind., East Berwickshire), George Turnbull (Con., Hawick and Hermitage) and Donald Moffat (SNP, Mid Berwickshire).

The former boxing champion claims that lawyer Mr Cook, SBC’s executive member for corporate improvement and the human resources spokesman for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, called him “a shite” during a private September seminar of councillors discussing the future administration of common good funds.

Mr Paterson has taken Mr Turnbull, the council’s executive member for education, to task for issuing a press release – subsequently withdrawn – which stated that Mr Paterson had leaked confidential information regarding the location in Hawick of the proposed Bill McLaren museum.

And last week after a meeting of SBC’s watchdog scrutiny panel, Mr Paterson lodged a complaint about the conduct of its chairman, Mr Moffat, leader of the SNP opposition group, for telling him to “shut up”.

All three gripes have been submitted to SBC’s head of legal services Ian Wilkie who acts as monitoring officer for complaints levelled at elected members and advises the standards committee.

An SBC spokesperson said this week: “Our officers are aware of the complaints which have been raised by Councillor Paterson.

“The council’s adopted policy for councillor complaints requires that they are handled initially in accordance with an informal resolution procedure. This involves a meeting with the relevant councillors, the chief executive [Tracey Logan] and the council’s monitoring officer [Mr Wilkie].”

TheSouthern understands none of these meetings has yet taken place, although Mr Paterson admitted he had been unable to attend an appointment with Mr Wilkie and Mr Cook which had been arranged for last month.

Mr Paterson told us: “I’m not a member of the administration or any political group and only care about my constituents, which makes me an easy target for abuse and what I would describe as bullying. I feel increasingly marginalised which should not be the case and I hope my complaints are upheld and lessons learned.”

Mr Cook responded: “It is a measure of the regard in which I hold Councillor Paterson that I would not wish to comment on a private issue at this point in time. It is a measure of Councillor Paterson’s respect for colleagues that his first reflex is to report to the press any matter he contemplates may engender headlines, regardless of the facts.”

Mr Moffat said he had become frustrated by Mr Paterson’s behaviour at Thursday’s scrutiny meeting and admitted he had finally told him to shut up.

“I have chaired the panel for five years and have always tried to run things in a friendly, informal manner. Mr Paterson has only recently joined scrutiny and his approach has been much more confrontational.

“He had spoken several times already on Thursday, each time criticising other panel members, and this, I felt, was not only ill-mannered but impeding our progress. When he shouted out that I was favouring another speaker, I felt enough was enough. My exact words were: ‘I am chairing this meeting and you have had your say, so shut up’.

“There was no press or public at the meeting and perhaps I could have phrased what I said differently, but I certainly have no regrets and deserve no censure.”

Mr Turnbull could not be contacted for a comment.