Press excluded from council meeting about fraud
Councillors chose to discuss a paper revealing that a local authority cashier stole money while working at Pullar House in private this week – amid concerns the person who pocketed the cash would be identified during proceedings.
Perth and Kinross Council’s head of legal and governance services Lisa Simpson recommended its audit committee exclude the public and the press from the council’s chambers before reviewing the report on Wednesday, stressing that the employee’s identity had to be kept under wraps.
It was said in the report that the individual had “routinely” reversed cash transactions in order to trouser money over a 15-month period.
As she summed up her reasons for making her recommendation, which the committee duly accepted, Ms Simpson also claimed “some” reports in the local press about the case leading up to the meeting had been inaccurate.
Specifically she said no resident had been billed for anything like a five-figure sum mentioned in a story featured elsewhere, prompting one councillor to ask for a press release to be put out straight after the meeting setting out exactly what had been reported wrongly.
In that press release the convener of the committee, Councillor Eric Drysdale, was quoted as saying: “Regarding the report considered in private by the audit committee earlier today, I can confirm that, contrary to some recent local press coverage, no resident received any additional or incorrect bill in connection with the activities that were the subject of the report.
“These activities involved a series of low-level transactions which made them initially hard to detect.
“As stated in the report, the total sum identified has been repaid and the person is no longer employed by the council.
“A number of actions were taken immediately to strengthen the controls in the cash office.
“In relation to the exclusion of the press and public, the grounds are set out in legislation which the elected members are familiar with, and also in the council’s Standing Orders.
“The decision by the committee at that time is final.”