Council finance chief in court expenses row

NORTH Lanarkshire Council’s finance boss has become embroiled in a row with a businessman over expenses.

Brian Cook is demanding nearly £180 in lost wages after being called as a witness by Colin Gibson in a court case.

Mr Gibson is refusing to pay up and that sparked undignified scenes when the hearing at Hamilton Sheriff Court ended.

The spat follows an allegation by Mr Gibson, from Bothwell, that the council’s head of revenue services put false information before a court in a bid to get thousands of pounds in unpaid rates.

Mr Gibson says the council wrongly pursued him for the debt, which related to a jewellery shop in Airdrie, when the tenant of the property was a firm called Bridge Wynd.

He claims Mr Cook knew Bridge Wynd was the tenant but lied on oath in order to obtain a summary warrant against Mr Gibson. The businessman claims he finally paid £8,000 plus £4,000 expenses after being threatened with sequestration.

Mr Cook denies providing false information and insists the council was correct to pursue Mr Gibson for the money.

Mr Gibson called the finance chief and June Murray, the council’s head of legal services, to give evidence during a court case earlier this month.

The businessman was defending an action brought by his former lawyers who claim he owes them £850 for services during his lengthy dispute with the council.

Mr Gibson has refused to meet the claims by Mr Cook and Mrs Murray for loss of earnings, saying: “I find it incredible that the council would even consider deducting wages from these officers when they are discussing council business in court.”

However, he claims Mr Cook and Mrs Murray intimidated him for money on the day and has lodged a complaint about their conduct outside the courtroom.

Hamilton’s sheriff clerk confirmed a complaint has been received and this will be investigated ‘thoroughly’.

However, the council hit back, accusing Mr Gibson of ‘aggressive’ behaviour.

A spokesman said: “Mr Gibson is responsible for the expenses and salary of two council officers he cited as witnesses. The day after the hearing he made calls to the council pay office in an attempt to obtain personal information about the two officers’ pay.

“This caused concern to staff who received his calls. Certificates relating to appropriate deductions from salary of the council officers he cited have been provided to Mr Gibson and we expect our employees to be reimbursed by him.

“The council is grateful for the assistance of the court staff in dealing with a difficult situation. Mr Gibson might have been under some stress in dealing with a litigation for non-payment of a bill from his lawyers, but that does not excuse aggressive confrontations on his part with council staff he has cited to court.”

Full story in this week’s Motherwell Times and Bellshill Speaker, out now.