Ex-councillor Jim Orr censured over ‘demeaning’ blog

Jim Orr. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Jim Orr. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

A FORMER councillor has been censured by the ethics watchdog for making personal and insulting remarks about former Deputy Lord Provost Steve Cardownie.

Jim Orr, who was independent councillor for Southside/Newington until this year’s local elections, had posted an online blog last year entitled The Steve Cardownie Corruption Map of Edinburgh.

It featured ten highlighted areas in central Edinburgh, each with corresponding allegations of wrongdoing, including claims that Mr Cardownie had given preferential treatment to certain individuals, had failed to declare 
relevant interests and had 
bullied officers.

The blog also referred to Mr Cardownie as “a crook” and claimed his conduct was “bordering on criminal activity”.

The Standards Commission for Scotland ruled he had breached the councillors code of conduct and it said his comments were clearly intended to “impugn and demean” Mr Cardownie in a public forum.

The hearing panel noted that Mr Cardownie had sued for defamation and as a result Mr Orr had paid damages and issued an unqualified apology for the blogpost.

In its report, the panel said Mr Orr, who previously worked as a local authority internal auditor, had told them he was “angry and frustrated that some of the practices and behaviours he was seeing as a councillor were not being addressed or investigated” and had been attempting to bring his concerns into the public domain.

“He accepted, however, that he should not have used the language that he did and that it was inappropriate.”

Mr Orr was elected as an SNP councillor in 2012, when Mr Cardownie was SNP group leader and deputy council leader. Mr Orr resigned from the party two years later to sit as an independent. He did not seek re-election at the May elections.

Because he is no longer a councillor, the Standards Commission said the only sanctions it could impose on Mr Orr were censure or disqualification. The decision of the panel was to censure.

Today Mr Orr said he did not wish to comment on the Standards Commission case. But he said he had now rejoined the party. And he added: “I’m pleased the SNP group at the council now appears to be more stable and functioning well.”

Mr Cardownie, who also stood down from the council at the election, said he felt the complaint had been satisfactorily dealt with.

He continued: “Neither Jim nor I are now on the council and I regard the matter as closed. I have no desire to rub salt in any wounds. The complaint has taken its course and I’m happy to put it behind me and allow the matter to rest.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com