A leading city councillor plans to appeal a ruling which found she had breached ethical guidelines, the Evening Express can reveal.
Marie Boulton, a councillor for Lower Deeside, appeared before a panel from the Standards Commission accused of telling a community council about budget challenges facing Aberdeen City Council in January last year.
She told the members present that the council was facing cuts of around £45 million – but at that point, the figure had not yet been disclosed publicly.
A complaint was subsequently lodged, arguing Mrs Boulton had breached the Councillors’ Code of Conduct.
But Mrs Boulton has now announced her intention to appeal the ruling.
She said: “I am extremely disappointed that the Standards Commission have found against me.
“It is my intention to speak to my solicitor regarding an appeal under section 22 (3) (a) of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc (Scotland) Act 2000. Once I have spoken to my solicitor I will make further comment.”
In defence of her position at the hearing Mrs Boulton, who leads the Independent Alliance group on the council, claimed the information she disclosed was already publicly known.
Further, she claimed any member of the public could have arrived at the same figure by piecing together information which was freely available.
Mrs Boulton said she was not aware a journalist was in attendance and claimed reporters “rarely” attend the community council meetings.
She also insisted there was confusion over which parts of a budget pack distributed to councillors were confidential – despite a warning on the front cover stating any disclosure of the information within it could lead to sanctions.
However, Martin Campbell, representing the Ethical Standards Commission, said the council had a “legitimate reason” for marking the information as confidential before the figures had been properly established.
Regarding the warning on the document, he added: “In any ordinary reading, that is a clear indication the contents were confidential.”
Mrs Boulton’s case was harmed by a failure to submit what might have been a key piece of evidence – a blog post by the council’s chief finance officer Jonathan Belford, supposedly outlining the £45m hole before she did.
She referenced it several times before Mr Campbell argued “no weight should be attached” to it as evidence.
Defending Mrs Boulton, her solicitor Duncan Love said: “She has been an independent councillor for 13 years and is a very hard-working member of the council. She is convener of the licensing board and planning committee.
“This has been a most unfortunate incident.”
Upon hearing the ruling, Mrs Boulton added: “I am disappointed. This is not a normal position for me to be in because I take my position very seriously.
“I am here to serve the people of my community and my city.
“I just try to do the job that is expected of me.”