CALLS have been made for a standards investigation into the SNP administration at Mid- lothian Council, after the chief executive confirmed members had tried to influence appointments to council posts.
Labour group leader Derek Milligan said he had asked the Standards Commission to look into attempts by the ruling SNP group to pressure council officials into appointing favoured candidates to key jobs.
The move follows a troubled period which saw SNP council leader Lisa Beattie step down within weeks of being appointed, and coalition partner, independent councillor Peter de Vink, quit.
Councillor Milligan said there were rumours that SNP members had been frustrated that they were not allowed to create two political adviser posts, one of which was allegedly to go to a defeated SNP candidate.
Cllr Milligan raised the issue with council chief executive Kenneth Lawrie, asking whether any elected member had at any time attempted to have a friend, colleague, family member, or any other person appointed to any council post.
“He [Mr Lawrie] has confirmed that at least three separate attempts were made by SNP or coalition councillors to circumvent the normal recruitment procedures,” said Cllr Milligan. “I have asked the Standards Commission to investigate everything here.”
In an e-mail to Cllr Milligan, Mr Lawrie said: “I can confirm that a member of the SNP group did enquire about appointing a nominated person to a role working with the administration.
“I advised that if the council agreed to fund any such posts directly then recruitment procedures would require to be followed to fill the posts and the SNP group could not simply choose who should be appointed. I informed the councillor that, alternatively, if the adviser were to be funded and employed directly by the SNP then they could nominate who would act for them.”
The second intervention came over the newly-created post of business manager to support the administration.
Mr Lawrie wrote: “I can confirm that a request was made by members of the administration that an interview be offered to a candidate who had not been placed on the shortlist by the officers who assessed the applications. The matter was reported to me and I advised the members that this was not acceptable.
“I can confirm that the candidate in question was not offered an interview and only the candidates on the shortlist were taken forward. I have reported the matter to the chair of the council’s standards committee but would otherwise intend to take no further action at this time.”
Cllr Milligan said he understood the person passed over for the business manager role was then touted for a post with a yet-to-be launched Ambitious Midlothian programme. He said: “One councillor has identified an individual who could help deliver this programme and has suggested that a post be created to accommodate him. I will remind this councillor of the prohibition on canvassing and I can assure you that if such a post is established it will be filled only through the correct procedures.”
He added: “Although the chief executive has confirmed that pressures were applied he has not felt able to provide the identities of either the councillors involved or the names of or relationships with the candidates they were trying to appoint. This has left us with no choice but to ask the Standards Commission to look into this matter urgently. ”