Aberdeen’s deputy council leader was under pressure last night after an investigation upheld a complaint about the city’s licensing board.
Marie Boulton, who is convener of the board, faced renewed questions over her involvement in the case regarding the Pearl Lounge nightclub.
The dispute centres on a decision to suspend the licence of the Dee Street venue in October 2012, which was later overturned on appeal after a hearing at Aberdeen Sheriff Court in December the same year.
Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle found the court had been “misled” by a legal submission which denied that board member, SNP councillor Muriel Jaffrey, fell asleep during the initial license review hearing.
Pearl Lounge owners the Epic Group Ltd called on the authority to provide answers as to who instructed council solicitor Charles Smith, who had advised otherwise, to “lie” about the matter in court.
Local authority chief executive Angela Scott launched an internal investigation into the Epic Group complaint.
The council has now made a formal apology to Epic Group chief executive Mike Wilson, but has not divulged what disciplinary action, if any, has been taken.
A letter from acting head of corporate governance Ewan Sutherland – seen by the Press and Journal – has also revealed that Mrs Boulton was kept informed throughout the appeal process, prompting further scrutiny as to her role.
Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart, who had called for the council to publish its findings in full, said: “It seems that the council is at pains to highlight what staff did or didn’t do and also that the board had no direct involvement in the detail of the appeal.
“However, they seem to be reticent about telling us about the involvement of the convener, who they say was advised as necessary. I believe that this advice and the convener’s response to it must be put in the public domain.
“In my opinion it is only right that the public are given the full facts about this case, as after all a significant amount of public money has been lost because of the council’s mishandling of this case.”
Sheriff Pyle did not recommend in his judgment any criminal charges should be brought. But the board was found liable for legal expenses incurred by the Epic Group, meaning the city council had to pick up the tab of £18,700.