Council staff ‘received porn e-mails in intimidation bid’

The Cameron House community centre. Picture: Toby Williams
The Cameron House community centre. Picture: Toby Williams
  • Each of recipients had connections to fraud whistleblower
  • Claims staff had personnel records tampered with
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CITY council staff with connections to a whistleblower were bombarded with pornography as part of a ten-year campaign of intimidation and harassment, according to complaints made to an internal local authority investigation.

Auditors have been told that staff who were associated with John Travers – who raised concerns about potential fraud at one of the council’s arms-length companies – were sent torrents of pornography by e-mail, had their personnel records tampered with and were victims of anonymous online abuse.

The staff involved claim that the abuse was part of a concerted campaign designed to intimidate them into keeping silent.

The allegations were made to the council’s auditors as part of the probe that has led to Gillian Tee, the £143,000-a-year director of communities and families at the city council, being ordered to apologise for “past mistakes” to staff at Cameron House Community Centre, in Prestonfield.

The local authority has declined to expand on exactly what these “past mistakes” involved, but they are believed to include both the botched management of the centre’s redevelopment and the way in which the ensuing complaints were handled.

The auditor’s report is understood to confirm links between the Cameron House saga and the treatment of Mr Travers.

The report has been considered in private by councillors despite calls for its content to be made public.

Today, it emerged that the decision to keep the contents secret was driven by concerns that it contained “allegations of criminal activity”, according to e-mails leaked to the News.

The council has refused to reopen its investigation into the allegations of fraud at the Edinburgh Lifelong Learning Partnership (ELLP), an arms-length council company set up in 1998 to provide computer equipment to disadvantaged communities.

In late 2002, Mr Travers circulated a series of anonymous e-mails around the council, including to Donald Anderson, the then-council leader, alleging mismanagement in City Connect, an offshoot of ELLP.

The ELLP board was chaired by Lesley Hinds, the city’s then Lord Provost, and contained figures such as former city leader Ewan Aitken. The company secretary was Mike Rosendale, then head of the community education department.

The latest allegations of intimidation come after staff at Cameron House complained of dirty tricks by council employees, including doctoring e-mails and posing as a member of the public to gain covert access to the building.

City leaders said any wrongdoing would be rooted out but no new evidence had been presented since an investigation in 2006.

Concern over the council’s handling of the Cameron House saga and its links to the earlier whistleblowing investigation is the latest controversy to hit the Capital’s education department.

Former Castlebrae High headteacher Derek Curran was sacked earlier this year after a student’s complaint of improper behaviour by a teacher was allegedly ignored for months.

A council spokesman said: “Two separate and detailed investigations were carried out into historical allegations. The results of these investigations were reported fully and openly to council in 2006 and are available to view on the council website. They concluded that there were insufficient grounds to justify initiating any disciplinary proceedings against any council employee.

“Although policies and procedures were not adhered to fully there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations of misconduct on the part of any individual.”

A senior council source said: “If there has been any intimation of a criminal act then it should have been handed to the police.”

Councillor Jeremy Balfour said Ms Tee and deputy chief executive Alastair Maclean would be expected to answer councillors’ questions when the Cameron House report is considered next week. “All the issues will be debated and we’ll decide what to do,” he said.

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com