Leisure chief quits after firm payment
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