Council leaders cleared of blame in Gathering fiasco

CITY leader Jenny Dawe and her deputy, Steve Cardownie, were today cleared of any blame for the Gathering fiasco.

A detailed review commissioned by city council chief executive Sue Bruce has concluded that there is "no evidence" to support the view of the Scottish Government's audit committee that the pair's evidence was "not credible".

But the report, which cost the council 32,000, is likely to be dismissed by some as a whitewash as it fails to blame any individuals for the release of a controversial press statement.

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The review was carried out by the consultancy firm Deloitte. It was ordered by Mrs Bruce after Councillors Dawe and Cardownie said they had not given approval to issue a release saying council-backed tourism body Dema would cover the debts of the collapsed firm behind The Gathering.

Council media manager Stewart Argo had said in his evidence that he had received the necessary clearance to issue the release but he is also cleared of any accusation of being untruthful.

In the report, Mrs Bruce said: "The findings present a comprehensive and objective examination of the relevant issues.

"In particular, in relation to the differing understandings of the events leading to the issue of the press release on October 15, 2009, Deloitte found no evidence to suggest this was attributed to anything other than a series of governance and procedural deficiencies, compounded by external factors and other pressures.

"Accordingly, no evidence has been found to support the view of the public audit committee that the leader and deputy leader, or any officers, had been untruthful in their submissions to the committee."

The criticism by MSPs had focused on a meeting to discuss a press release which wrongly announced that Dema would cover debts of 344,000 owed by private company The Gathering 2009 Ltd.

Cllrs Dawe and Cardownie had said they could not recollect what was said in the meeting, but Mr Argo had given a written account of how the release came to be issued and insisted he had received the necessary clearance from them.

Ms Dawe said: "Obviously I am greatly relieved as we had to put up with a great deal of what we felt was unwarranted personal attacks, so I'm very relieved (the] report has found no evidence of untruthfullness.

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"Both of us knew all along that we had been as open and as honest as we could be."

Cllr Cardownie said: "I have always said I told the truth to the audit committee so the report does not contain any surprises but I am glad to see I am exonerated. I may be many things but I am not a liar."

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