Mystery over councillor’s £1,500 Kiev connections
A former SNP councillor in Edinburgh has been severely reprimanded by a tribunal for accepting £1,500 in cash from a Nationalist colleague.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) also ordered Jim Orr to pay £6,000 in costs after ruling he breached integrity rules over the money received from former council deputy leader Steve Cardownie.
He was sanctioned even though he repaid the sum to Cardownie and publicised the payment himself. In 2012, Orr, pictured right, at that point an SNP councillor in the capital, lost a special allowance as vice-convener of a local authority committee.
He did not consent to the removal of the extra payment and his council income fell from £22,000 to £16,000.
Cardownie, who combined the roles of deputy council leader and SNP group leader, offered to help make up the shortfall by giving the chartered accountant £1,500 from his own pocket.
Orr, who was reluctant to accept the cash, said he would agree to the arrangement so long as Cardownie gave it directly to a family in Kiev he knew.
Cardownie declined and Orr accepted £1,500 in £20 notes from the deputy leader in January 2013, after which Orr himself transferred the money to the family. The deputy leader later recalled: “I was helping a colleague who had lost his SRA [allowance]. It was a genuine attempt to help Jim Orr. He was one-and-a-half [£1,500] short.”
However, Orr regretted agreeing to the Cardownie payment and later returned the money to him, despite already handing over the original sum to the family in Kiev. He accepted £1,500 from another councillor, which he also returned.
After Orr, who resigned the SNP whip in 2014 and sat as an independent councillor for the remainder of his term, made details of the payment public, a complaint was made about him to the ICAEW.
According to the ICAEW website, a tribunal of the body’s disciplinary committee upheld a complaint that Orr breached the integrity section of their ethics code by accepting the payment. The tribunal ordered that “Mr Orr be severely reprimanded and pay costs of £6,000”.
Orr is no longer a councillor or an SNP member. Speaking to The Herald on Sunday, he said: “Explaining the culture and practices of Edinburgh Council to a panel of London barristers and accountants is not something I’d want to do twice in my life.
“For example, although gifts of cash and allowances were exchanged from time to time between councillors, and this is rarely a good idea, it was generally supported by officer advice – but never formally in writing.
“Personally I had colleagues encouraging me to take cash gifts or compensation within a few months of my election. I fought alone against every aspect of such payments and returned the money as soon as practicable each time
“But just handling it was, for obvious reasons, considered worthy of a severe reprimand. The city chambers was anything but a safe space for those of us with valuable reputations to protect.”