A north-east councillor who could be sanctioned for failing to declare a business interest has said lessons have been learned from his mistake.
On Monday, the Standards Commission for Scotland (SCS) revealed that Mid-Formartine councillor Paul Johnston faced a hearing over allegations that he failed to officially record his 100% shares in Enoteca 2016 Ltd within the prescribed time limit.
Mr Johnston has admitted the “inadvertent” error – the firm is the parent company of his Pitmedden pub, the Craft Bar – but still has to go through the SCS process and atttend a hearing in Edinburgh.
The SCS allege that Mr Johnston’s inaction was a clear breach of the councillors’ code of conduct.
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Yesterday, Mr Johnston said: “My opening of the Craft Bar in Pitmedden and my financial interest in it was well known locally, appearing in the local papers, in social media and local advertising. A former MP and chairman of a major national pub campaign opened the premises.
“Due to me inadvertently not submitting a correct change to the councillors’
declaration of interest, I inadvertently left off the share interest in the business
which I have. This error is a clear breach of the code of conduct, however it came
Mr Johnston has already admitted and “unreservedly apologised” to the SCS for the breach, but has also stressed that this his first violation of the code of conduct in 26 years as a councillor.
He added: “Declarations of interest are essential for transparency. Even though in this case most people knew of my connection with the bar, it is important for all cases to be
declared correctly and I have made that mistake and it is a salutary lesson for me.
“My ownership of the business may be known to many locally, and one may think its
obvious, however, the correct declaration is always required and I admit I made
an error in submitting a form unchecked and missing the share declaration.”
The case has been referred to the SCS by the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland (ESC).
The ESC, who carries out the investigation into complaints, will present the case against Mr Johnston at the hearing on March 18, before he is given a chance to respond.
If it is determined that Mr Johnston breached the code, it will decide whether to impose a sanction of either censure, which means the breach is recorded, suspension or disqualification.