Published: 19/02/2013 10:00 - Updated: 19/02/2013 10:15

Provost faces fresh claims of bullying in the council

Written byBy Val Sweeney

Provost Alex Graham and depute provost Glynis Sinclair in happier times at a fireworks display.
Provost Alex Graham and depute provost Glynis Sinclair in happier times at a fireworks display.

Inverness's civic leader, who is already facing a police investigation into a row over ceremonial chains of office at a high-profile civic reception, is also the subject of three separate complaints about his behaviour, The Inverness Courier has learned.

As inquiries continue into an alleged breach of the peace involving Inverness provost Alex Graham, it emerged his accuser and deputy provost Glynis Sinclair has also complained about his "bullying behaviour" to senior figures at Highland Council.

"This for me, this is not a one-off," Councillor Sinclair commented yesterday. "I do find him difficult to work with."

She confirmed she had submitted three complaints to the city leader and leader of the council, copied to the chief executive, but was adamant the affair would not forces her to step down because she had "done nothing wrong".

Provost Graham declined to discuss the matter yesterday. "It would not be appropriate for me to comment in the light of the ongoing police investigation," he said.

Northern Constabulary is inquiring into events at a civic reception held at the Inverness Town House on 7th February for delegates attending the first Scottish inshore fisheries conference at Eden Court Theatre.

Guests included environment minister Richard Lochhead and business representatives.

Councillor Sinclair said when she arrived, she put on the "Lady’s Chain" usually worn by the provost’s spouse, rather than the deputy provost’s chain.

She claimed that when Provost Graham, who arrived later, he rebuked her for breaking protocol and told her to leave the hall and remove it.

After taking advice from her solicitor, she subsequently complained to police about Provost Graham’s alleged aggressive and threatening behaviour in a public place.

"It is totally unacceptable," she said. "I was in bits about it and I still am. I have had a lot of sleepless nights."

Provost Graham, the Lib-Dem representative for Inverness West, was elected to the office in August at the same time as Councillor Sinclair (Culloden and Ardersier) was made one of two female depute provosts. Councillor Sinclair changed her party allegiance from the Lib-Dems to the SNP in 2011.

"I would not be surprised if this was all to do with the fact I was formerly a Lib-Dem," she said.

Both are members of the ruling SNP/Lib-Dem/Labour coalition and yesterday the administration tried to play down the public row.

SNP city leader Ian Brown acknowledged the publicity surrounding the alleged incident was "not helpful" but added: "We are looking at what is a private matter," he said. "It is not a matter for the administration."

The council’s Lib-Dem depute leader, David Alston, said it would not be appropriate to comment.

However, the second depute provost, Labour’s Bet McAllister, was disappointed that a misunderstanding over civic protocol had escalated into a public row.

"I don’t like washing dirty linen in public," she said. "It could have been sorted out behind closed doors and with apologies."

A Highland Council spokesman said the local authority was aware of the situation.

Meanwhile, Graham Young, head of Seafood Scotland, who attended the reception was unaware of the problems. "It was a fabulous evening and the hospitality was outstanding," he said.

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