A councillor has been formally reprimanded by an ethics watchdog after he failed to reveal shares in his own company in time.
Paul Johnston, Aberdeenshire councillor for the Mid-Formartine ward, failed to register an interest in Enoteca 2016 ltd within the correct time limit, despite being the sole director of the company and owning 100% of the shares.
According to Companies House, Enoteca is registered to Mr Johnston’s pub in Pitmedden, The Craft Bar.
A three-strong panel from the Standards Commission for Scotland found it was “not in dispute” that Mr Johnston, who is the leader of the Democratic Independent and Green group, had failed to register his interest.
The commission said by contravening the terms of the councillor’s code of conduct, Mr Johnston “fell below the standards expected of those in public life”.
Under the code, elected members must register any shareholding where the nominal value of the shares is more than 1% of the issue share capital of the company.
Mr Johnston said: “I fully accept the judgement of the Standards Commission on the facts that I breached the code of conduct.
“I have admitted the error, and unreservedly apologised to the Standards Commission through its investigation team.
“A corrected version of my declaration of interests was posted as soon as the error was known.
“I clearly made an error in that I returned a form without checking by me.
“This older and inaccurate form was published as the declaration of interests.
“I agree with the comments of the commission’s meeting and accept that it is essential councillors are open and transparent with their declarations, and this is essential for public accountability.
“Therefore I do not hesitate to apologise for the breach and my error.”
Tricia Stewart, the chairwoman of the panel, said: “The councillor’s code of conduct clearly states that councillors should register certain interests, both financial and otherwise.
“The panel accepted that there was no evidence that either councillor Johnston or the company gained any benefit from the omission.
“However, the requirement to register interests is a fundamental part of the code of conduct, as it provides transparency and helps maintain the public’s confidence that a councillor’s personal interests will not influence their discussions and decision-making.
“The panel considered that councillor Johnston, as an experienced councillor, should have been cognisant of this.”