Councillor sues former leader for defamation

A BITTER row between rival councillors is set to move from council chambers to the court room as a defamation case is launched against the ex-leader of Midlothian.
Peter de Vink. Picture: Gordon FraserPeter de Vink. Picture: Gordon Fraser
Peter de Vink. Picture: Gordon Fraser

Independent Midlothian councillor Peter de Vink is suing Cllr Derek Milligan – a former leader of the local authority – following a complaint to the Standards Commission suggesting he was abusing his power.

It was alleged Cllr de Vink and colleague Councillor Lisa Beattie had breached the Councillor’s Code of Conduct and “pressurised officers to employ friends, political party members, colleagues, workmates, or others as paid political officers/advisors with the council as well as a number of other posts”.

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The complaint also alleged the pair had subjected the chief executive and the director of corporate resources to “abuse” during the process.

But Public Standards Commissioner Stuart Allan found no evidence of wrongdoing by either councillor when he concluded his investigation in May 2013.

Now, Cllr de Vink, the chief executive of Edinburgh Financial General Holdings, has launched a legal action to clear his name and is aiming to sue Cllr Milligan – who made the complaint – for defamation.

He is seeking to recoup legal costs for the lawyers he paid to defend him against the complaint lodged with the Standards Commission, which he claimed had run to tens of thousands of pounds.

Cllr de Vink, who represents Midlothian East, has also demanded an apology and a donation from Cllr Milligan to a charity of his choice.

The landowner said: “It has been a very unpleasant thing, as if I was going to be found guilty, I could not have got a job doing anything in government as I would have had a red mark against my name.

“I would not have been seen as a proper person.”

Dealings between the two councillors have been tense since the complaint was launched in December 2012, according to Cllr de Vink.

Council meetings have been “challenging”, he said.

He said: “It is so dramatic when you want to get things done, and then you get this sort of thing.

“To say things have been challenging is an understatement.”

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Cllr Milligan, of Bonnyrigg ward, was unavailable for comment when approached by the Evening News.

A spokesperson for Midlothian Council declined to comment on the issue.

A preliminary hearing is to be heard today at Edinburgh Sherriff Court.