Lawyers sue fundraiser over unpaid fees

Elaine McGonigle is now producing bags under the Eli Mac brand name
Elaine McGonigle is now producing bags under the Eli Mac brand name
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THE woman behind the failed fundraising campaign for the new Sick Kids Hospital is being sued over unpaid legal fees, it emerged today.

Elaine McGonigle, 47, the former director of the failed New Pyjamas appeal, is set to appear at Perth Sheriff Court next month for a civil case.

Elaine McGonigle

Elaine McGonigle

The pursuer is Perth-based legal firm Kippen Campbell, which is understood to be seeking unpaid fees.

The court said she would be representing herself at the case, although it is not known how much money the legal firm is seeking, with the company refusing to discuss the matter when approached.

It has also emerged that after departing the New Pyjamas appeal Ms McGonigle, who lives in Rait, Perthshire, set up a business designing and producing bags and fashion accessories.

Her company has appeared at numerous craft fairs across Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland, and on the firm’s website she has rebranded herself as “Eli Mac” to customers.

On its website, the company states: “We design and hand craft every single bag, purse, cushion and accessory with love, pride, attention to detail and great care.

“We have a simple belief – that quality, originality and style matter and that none of that should cost the Earth.”

The New Pyjamas appeal, which was supposed to raise £15 million for the proposed new hospital at Little France, enjoyed a high-profile beginning and had a string of well-known backers, including former first minister Jack McConnell and ex-Lothians MSP George Foulkes, who even wore striped pyjamas in photoshoots to promote the cause.

The project seemed to be going well until relations between Ms McGonigle and the Sick Kids Friends Foundation (SKFF) and NHS Lothian deteriorated rapidly.

Ms McGonigle was suspended then made redundant, along with ten other staff, and she later launched an employment tribunal case against the SKFF, which ran the campaign.

The charity’s 2010 official accounts showed that, of the £600,000 spent “generating income” by the New Pyjamas arm, only £100,000 was raised. Together with other costs, including making ten staff redundant, the final figure is estimated to be just more than £900,000.

Ms McGonigle’s supporters blame the failure of the appeal on the SKFF for derailing the project, saying that it “takes money to make money”, and that the £15m target would have been hit had bosses kept faith.

Ms McGonigle is facing a fraud charge in relation to the appeal but no court dates have yet been set while the case is examined by the Crown.

She declined to comment when approached by the Evening News.

amorris@edinburghnews.com