Leisure chief quits af­ter firm pay­ment

Macclesfield Express - - FRONT PAGE - BELINDA RYAN

ACOUNCILLOR has re­signed from Cheshire East Coun­cil’s rul­ing cabi­net af­ter it was re­vealed that money raised for char­ity was pro­cessed through a firm he was a di­rec­tor of be­fore it went into liq­ui­da­tion.

Tyther­ing­ton coun­cil­lor Sam Gard­ner said he was stand­ing down be­cause he did not want to ‘risk the rep­u­ta­tion’ of the coun­cil.

Coun Gard­ner quit his role as port­fo­lio holder for leisure and open spa­ces af­ter it was re­vealed he signed a le­gal doc­u­ment con­firm­ing that money col­lected on be­half of a char­ity from guests at the Fom­fest mu­sic fes­ti­val or­gan­ised by the firm were used to ‘de­fray the trad­ing ex­penses of the com­pany.

The firm later went into liq­ui­da­tion, and Coun Gard­ner, who will con­tinue to rep­re­sent the ward, was dis­qual­i­fied from be­ing a com­pany di­rec­tor for four years in 2013. The signed doc­u­ment said: “Be­tween 5 May 2011 and 22 May 2011, I caused Fom­fest Ltd to mis­use do­na­tions of at least £4,142 col­lected on be­half of char­ity from guests at a fes­ti­val or­gan­ised by the com­pany.... Funds col­lected, both in ad­vance and on the day, were not re­mit­ted to the char­ity, in­stead be­ing used to de­fray the trad­ing ex­penses of the com­pany, giv­ing rise to a claim in the pro­ceed­ings in the sum of £10,000.”

In a state­ment is­sued by Coun Gard­ner said he, per­son­ally, never had con­trol over the com­pany’s (Fom­fest) ac­counts and he held up his ‘hands up as a mem­ber of the team’.

Coun Gard­ner said: “Re­gard­ing the fes­ti­val busi­ness, Fom­fest Limited, I was in charge of the event man­age­ment and lo­gis­tics. At no time did I have any con­trol over the bank­ing or ac­counts of the com­pany. I did not per­son­ally make or re­ceive any pay­ments of any kind on be­half of the com­pany nor did I have the abil­ity at any stage dur­ing the life of the com­pany to do so.

“In events of this kind those who have free guest tick­ets pay a small do­na­tion in or­der to re­ceive their en­try tick­ets.

“Th­ese pay­ments were still in the com­pany’s ac­counts when it went un­der. They should not have been. In the af­ter­math, when this came to light, I took col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity for this mis­take. Although I did not have any in­di­vid­ual re­spon­si­bil­ity or op­er­a­tion of this ac­count, I held my hands up as a mem­ber of the team.

“I have al­ways taken re­spon­si­bil­ity in my life, and it is for the same rea­son that I of­fered my res­ig­na­tion.”

The Form of Dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ment signed by Coun Gard­ner be­gins by ac­cept­ing a sum­mary of the com­pany’s sit­u­a­tion, in­clud­ing its vol­un­tary liq­ui­da­tion and li­a­bil­i­ties.

It con­tin­ues: “In De­cem­ber 2010 Fom­fest en­tered into an agree­ment with a char­ity part­ner for do­na­tions to be col­lected from guests of the fes­ti­val which it was formed to pro­mote and stage.

“Guests were ad­vised of the char­ity be­ing sup­ported and re­quested to make a char­i­ta­ble dona- tion, per guest ticket, of £9.50 in ad­vance or £15 at the event;

“Be­tween May 5, 2011, and May 22, 2011, Fom­fest col­lected at least 436 char­ity do­na­tions to­talling £4,142 in re­spect of guest list tick­ets for the event, this in­for­ma­tion be­ing recorded within the com­pany’s own ac­count­ing records;

“A fur­ther sum was col­lected though cash do­na­tions made dur­ing the course of the three day event, how­ever, no sep­a­rate record was kept as to the value of such do­na­tions or how they were ap­plied.

“Of the £4,142 iden­ti­fi­able char­ity do­na­tions, £3,506 was pro­cessed through the com­pany’s Paypal ac­count and trans­ferred to its main busi­ness ac­count from where it was ap­plied to gen­eral trad­ing ex­penses;

“No do­na­tions were re­mit­ted to the char­ity at all and a claim has been lodged in the liq­ui­da­tion in the es­ti­mated sum of £10,000.”

●● Coun Sam Gard­ner has stepped down

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