Edinburgh council chief to be grilled under oath by top QC as part of 'weaponised porn' whistleblower case

Latest development in 17-year fight following revelations of record tampering and hate mail

Friday, 1st November 2019, 6:00 am
Andrew Kerr
Andrew Kerr

EDINBURGH’S council boss is expected to be hauled in front of a hearing and grilled under oath as part of a high-profile whistleblower case.

The authority’s £167,000-a-year chief executive Andrew Kerr will be quizzed on whether all documents relating to a hushed-up report have been handed over to lawyers.

John Travers served a writ on City Chambers in December to publish the PWC report into his claims £400,000 of public funds had been misspent at an arm's-length firm.

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John Travers

Mr Travers’ solicitor Stephen Miller said: “Our client is attempting to obtain the full report which was, at great expense to council taxpayers, commissioned from PWC.

“He was promised that report, but has never been given a full copy of it.

“It plainly contains information which is embarrassing to the council and the public and our client has a right to see it.

“The holding of this commission is part of the process which we hope will expedite resolution of the case.”

Mr Kerr will be cited to appear at the hearing scheduled for December 9 in front of a commissioner, or advocate.

He will face questions in person from an advocate acting for Mr Travers - Andrew Smith QC - one of the country’s top top lawyers.

Mr Travers and others close to him were the victims of a ten-year campaign of intimidation after he made the claims in 2002.

This included tampering with personnel records, hate mail, a barrage of "weaponised" pornography being sent to Mr Travers and his associates and anonymous online abuse.

The city council drafted in a team of specialist investigators from accountancy giant PWC to examine the claims in 2016.

Their report vindicated the actions taken by Mr Travers and is understood to have found both he and his associates were harassed - but was unable to establish those responsible.

It also tracked vile hardcore pornographic images back to the council via an IP address but no individual has ever been identified as responsible.

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

Mr Travers’ allegations related to Edinburgh Lifelong Learning Partnership (ELLP) and work carried out on 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.

Raising the allegations led to a disciplinary hearing against Mr Travers, but he later won £5,000 compensation after an employment tribunal ruled that the council had failed in its duty to protect him.

The ELLP case has also been linked to a botched building project at Cameron House Community Centre.

The Prestonfield hub became mired in allegations of doctored emails, missing documents and the wasting of more than £146,000 of public money.

Mr Kerr took home basic pay of £167,468 last year - bolstered to £203,139 with pension contributions.

Also expected to be questioned at the hearing will be Alastair Maclean - former chief operating officer and deputy chief executive at the council.

A City of Edinburgh Council spokesperson said: “The council does not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.”