Dundee City Council leader Ken Guild has been censured for breaching the councillors’ code by revealing an employee had been signed off work.
A Standards Commission for Scotland hearing panel has decided that Mr Guild’s use of the phrase “signed off” when discussing Norma Seith’s absence from work would be understood to refer to her health.
Mr Guild’s comment was made during a policy and resources committee budget setting meeting last February when proposals to restructure the Young Mums’ Unit and scrap the role of principal teacher, held by Mrs Seith, were discussed.
A public campaign to save the unit had been launched but when Mr Guild visited the unit prior to the policy and resources committee meeting he was told she had been signed off.
When the SNP administration clashed with opposition councillors over the plans, Mr Guild said the principal teacher had been signed off for a month without affecting the service.
Panel chair Lyndsey Gallanders said: “We have reached a decision that we have taken some time over.
“The hearing panel found he had breached paragraphs 3.14 and 3.15 which oblige councillors to comply with requirements to keep certain information confidential.”
He should … have been aware it was personal information about an employee and therefore confidential.
She added: “The hearing panel heard that at a policy and resources committee at Dundee City Council on February 12 2015, Councillor Guild disclosed the fact that the holder of a post being considered for deletion had been signed off for one month.”
Mrs Gallanders said the panel had been unable to decide whether Mr Guild used the phrase “signed off sick” or, as he maintains, simply “signed off”.
However, it concluded the phrase “signed off” would be “reasonably understood” to refer to illness.
Mrs Gallanders added: “Councillor Guild had been provided with information and not explicitly advised it was confidential.
“But he should nonetheless have been aware it was personal information about an employee and therefore confidential.”
The hearing panel noted it was Mr Guild’s first breach of the code in 22 years as a councillor and that his comments were made during a heated debate.
Mr Guild said: “It’s a strange world where you can sanctioned for telling the truth to counter deliberately misleading information at committee.”