Councils spent £622,000 of public cash on a bungled legal bid to recover costs from a roadworks debacle.
Tayside Contracts took a materials supplier to the Court of Session for the failed surface dressing – despite losing all but one photograph of the dozens of affected sites.
A judge panned the organisation, which performs road maintenance on behalf of the area’s three local authorities, for the lack of evidence they presented to back up their claims.
The Courier can reveal that Tayside Contracts spent £270,000 on legal fees, including on a QC, as part of a six-year dispute with Arbroath-based Geddes, who supplied the aggregate chippings for the works.
Bosses also had to stump up the respondents’ court costs of £352,000.
A leading structural engineer, who was the expert witness for Geddes, said pursuing the case on the basis of one long range photograph was a “misuse of public funds”.
Dr John Knapton, a retired professor who has worked on the Twin Towers disaster, said: “I was astonished they (TC) brought this case to trial knowing they had lost all of the factual evidence.
“I have given evidence in courts in the US, Australia, Dominican Republic and the UK over 40 years and I have never encountered anything approaching that.
“The only one photograph that he (the TC-commissioned expert) had, he happened to have because he used it on the front cover of a report which he produced for his client.
“That (photograph) didn’t even tell you very much, it was just a long shot.”
The surface dressing works – a relatively cheap way of strengthening the road, improving grip and preventing potholes – were carried out at 62 sites in Dundee, Angus and Perth and Kinross during the summer of 2010.
The scale of the chippings’ failure to embed, which increases the risk of skidding, only came to light over the harsh 2010/2011 winter.
The cause of the fault has never been established.
The Court of Session threw out the claim, hard last year, that the failed resurfacing and the quality of the materials supplied by Geddes were linked.
Rebuking Tayside Contracts, Lord Doherty said: “There is a lack of detailed reliable evidence as to the precise nature and extent of the failures at each site.
“As already noted, the only document produced recording a failed area was a solitary photograph of part of one site in Angus.”
On top of the legal costs, Tayside Contracts, whose activities are scrutinised by 18 local councillors, spent nearly £1m on remedial works for the failed surface dressing programme.
In a report published to councillors this week, TC’s managing director Iain Waddell said they consulted industry experts and senior lawyers on the “prospect of recovering £938,000 of costs plus interest plus costs to the public purse”.
“Given that there was a strong belief backed by experts that there was a better than even prospect of recovery it was deemed appropriate to undertake litigation,” Mr Waddell added.
“This decision was not taken lightly as there are no guarantees and potentially substantial costs associated with taking this course of action.
He added: “It is worth pointing out that over the time period 2010-11 to 2017-18 inclusive, the period in which the remedial costs for redoing the works and the costs associated with this court case, Tayside Contracts has generated surpluses totalling £11.5m, which have been returned to our three constituent councils.”