Yesterday, I posted a piece about the issue Cllr Marshall and I had over Cllr Walsh arranging to pay from council funds for the let of the Queen’s Hall in Dunoon, a let that was clearly one that should have been paid for by the party hiring the hall.
At 1805 yesterday, 16th, I got an email from Mr Hendry, the council’s monitoring officer. He said he had been passed a copy of my blog and went on to say: “I will consider this fully, and then come back to you.”
Quite what this means I have no idea, but we’ll see.
Meanwhile, Mr Alan Stewart has raised a Freedom of Information request to the council about Mr Hendry’s report, ie the one he won’t allow me to publish even though the issue is widely known about and even though I consider it to be in the public interest. It’s also in Cllr Walsh’s best interests too because it allows his side of the story to be told in full, along with the analysis of the issue by council officers, the one that took 6 months to conclude. Alan’s FOI is as follows and I make no comment on it whatsoever.
Under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 please supply me with the information contained in the response to the complaint to internal audit lodged by councillors Breslin and Marshall dated 25th April 2015
This response has been marked as: Strictly Confidential, and : This report is considered to be legal advice and as such is exempt from release to a request for information on the basis of Section 36 (1) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.
Section 36 (1) of the act does not apply in this case for the following reasons:
1 Legal advice was not requested in the complaint, therefor the response can only be considered legal opinion at best.
2 The presenter of the report was acting in his capacity as Executive Director of Customer Services, and not as legal advisor to the councillors, therefore Legal Advice Privilege exemption cannot apply.
3 The information contained within the document cannot be considered confidential as it refers to actions taken publicly by a councillor in the course of his duties.
There is considerable public interest in seeing this report, given that it refers to possible misuse of public funds by a very senior councillor. There is an in-built presumption in FOISA that it is in the public interest to disclose information unless a public authority can show why there is a greater public interest in withholding the information.
FOISA does not define the term “public interest”, but it has been described as “something which is of serious concern and benefit to the public”. It has also been held that the public interest does not mean what is of interest to the public, but what is in the interest of the public. Potential misuse of public funds is not only of considerable interest to the Argyll and Bute community, but more importantly it is in the interest of the Argyll and Bute community that this information is released.
Given the above I would appreciate sight of the contents of this report.