A Fife Council officer “repeatedly threatened” an innocent member of the public with flytipping fines over a pile of rubbish.
The local authority has come under fire for its handling of the issue.
The row erupted when a man, known only as Mr C, complained to the Scottish Ombudsman about the council in a case of fly tipping near a property owned by a trust, for which he was responsible.
Roof repairs were carried out on the property.
The man said the work had been completed and the waste had been properly disposed of in a skip procured by the roofing contractor.
However, shortly after this, some roofing material was illegally dumped on council-owned land.
Mr C told the ombudsman he had contacted the council officer responsible for the investigation after a note was posted to the property at the heart of the matter.
He said the officer had “immediately” accused him of dumping the rubbish and refused to accept his attempts to refute the allegations, threatening to serve a fixed penalty notice if he did not arrange for the waste to be removed immediately.
When the ombudsman investigated he found the officer had failed to carry out his probe in line with council procedures which states that enforcement action should be taken only if the local authority had two signed witness statements or found conclusive evidence in the dumped waste.
“From the evidence we saw, the council officer had acted on one informal report from a neighbour in the area, and that this report did not place the blame directly on to Mr C, but on the contractor who attended to collect the skip,” he said.
Mr C was also found to have presented clear arguments to support his innocence, including offering photographic evidence and a copy of a contract stating the contractor was responsible for disposing of all waste.
According to the council’s policy, the officer should have called the contractor to discuss the matter.
“Instead he repeatedly threatened Mr C with a fixed penalty notice until Mr C arranged for the waste to be removed.”
The ombudsman was also critical that the council had failed to identify these errors.
Safer Communities team manager Dawn Jamieson said: “We have already apologised to the individual involved in this case.
“We fully accept the ombudsman’s decision, as a result of which we have carried out more staff training and are reviewing processes to see what else we can do to ensure such a thing doesn’t happen again.”