Councillor who leaked sensitive email warned: you haven’t heard last of this

Councillor Elaine Morris
Councillor Elaine Morris
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A COUNCILLOR who breached rules by revealing a company’s “sensitive financial details” has been rapped by a public sector watchdog.

Elaine Morris was taken before a panel yesterday in Edinburgh and admitted breaking the regulations in her role as an elected member.

It follows an email she sent to several people in her Forth constituency revealing debts owed by a company to the local authority.

As she had come across that privileged information thanks to her position, she should not have shared it with others and was reported to the Standards Commission.

However, the panel stopped short of suspending or disqualifying her, and instead issued a “censure” to the councillor who recently defected from the Liberal Democrats to the SNP.

The target of the email, chairman of Art in Architecture Ross McEwan, criticised the judgment for being too lenient and confirmed he would write to the city council urging further action.

The row began in January, when Cllr Morris informed locals, including members of Granton Community Council, that the company behind the ambitious Granton sur Mer open air swimming pool and arts centre plans had rent arrears with the council – an issue which has since been resolved.

She had urged the company to concentrate in paying off debts rather than “becoming involved in the internal workings of a community council”.

She had obtained that information through being a board member of the arms-length organisation Waterfront Edinburgh and did not realise that she was breaking rules.

Although she apologised, Mr McEwan said the remarks damaged his and the company’s reputation, and could jeopardise its plans for Granton sur Mer and any other project he is involved in.

At yesterday’s hearing, the head of the panel Jan Polley urged councillors to improve their understanding of their code of conduct.

She added that because Cllr Morris, who was elected in 2007, had admitted wrongdoing, apologised and taken steps to make sure it did not happen again, any stiffer sentence would have been “disproportionate”.

However, Mr McEwan said: “I would have preferred she was disqualified.

“I think that she was trying to undermine the work we do, but it did not have the desired effect. I will be writing to the council to ask that she is removed from the Waterfront Edinburgh board and the planning committee.”

Although the commission is often invited to investigate the conduct of councillors, it rarely results in a hearing.

Today Cllr Morris said: “I don’t think it needed to go this far. But that’s the way public standards work. I accept I did wrong and I have been admonished for that, and the way the hearing was conducted was very fair.”