Police launch investigation into whistleblower’s fraud claims

Edinburgh Council whistleblower John Travers. Picture: Scott Louden
Edinburgh Council whistleblower John Travers. Picture: Scott Louden

A POLICE investigation has been launched into allegations of fraud at an arms-length council company and the “traumatic” harassment of a whistleblower.

John Travers and others close to him were allegedly the victims of a ten-year campaign of intimidation after he claimed £400,000 of public funds had been misspent at the Edinburgh Lifelong Learning Partnership (ELLP).

It’s only appropriate that the police should look into this very, very carefully

Donald Anderson

This included tampering with personnel records, a barrage of pornography being sent to employees and anonymous online abuse.

Earlier this year, the city council drafted in a team of specialist investigators from PWC to examine the claims. Their report vindicated the actions taken by Mr Travers.

It is understood it concluded that harassment of Mr Travers and his associates had taken place – but they were unable to establish who was responsible.

As a result of their findings, which were handed to the police, the city council’s chief executive issued a full apology to Mr Travers for the “completely unacceptable” way he was treated.

While the PWC investigators did not find evidence of fraud, they also did not rule it out.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Police in Edinburgh have received a report in relation to this matter and an investigation is now underway to ascertain whether or not any criminality has taken place.

“As enquiries are ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

Mr Travers’ allegations related to ELLP and work carried out in City Connect, its IT and social inclusion project.

In late 2002, he sent a series of anonymous e-mails around the council, including to then-city leader Donald Anderson, alleging mismanagement in ELLP and City Connect.

The company secretary was Mike Rosendale, then head of the community education department.

Mr Anderson previously told the Evening News the treatment of Mr Travers had amounted to “an act of violence”, adding: “[Council departments] sought to destroy his reputation, take away his livelihood and tear apart his family life.”

Speaking yesterday, he said: “I think there are some very, very serious issues at stake. It’s only appropriate that the police should look into that very, very carefully.”

Raising the allegations led to a disciplinary hearing against Mr Travers, but he later won £5000 compensation after an employment tribunal ruled that the council had failed in its duty to protect him.

It said there had been “sufficient straws in the wind” to lead Mr Travers to believe “that all was not as it should be”.

The ELLP case has also been linked to a botched building project at Cameron House Community Centre, which became mired in allegations of doctored e-mails, missing documents and the wasting of more than £146,000 of public money.

A council spokesman said: “The council has passed the report to Police Scotland and we will cooperate fully with their inquiries.”