A former Edinburgh councillor is to face a standards watchdog over claims he shouted at two junior lawyers and made them feel uncomfortable.
John McLellan, who stood down at last year’s local election, is alleged to have breached the councillors’ code of conduct in 2021.
The ex-member of the council’s Conservative group, who referred himself to the standards commissioner following a complaint, continues to deny he acted inappropriately and categorically refuted allegations of “shouting and banging my fists on the table” whilst being shown a sensitive report into council failings at a law firm’s offices.
The Standards Commission for Scotland confirmed this week a hearing would be held in October to examine all the evidence and determine whether a breach occurred.
Council leader Cammy Day said he was confident the issue would now be dealt with “appropriately, fairly and robustly”.
Julian Diaz-Rainey, a partner for Pinsent Masons which conducted an inquiry into the council’s mishandling of complaints of sexual abuse by former social worker Sean Bell, said junior lawyers were “left feeling uncomfortable in the presence of Cllr McLellan” after he allegedly shouted and banged his fists on the table.
McLellan, who was among a group of councillors being shown the confidential report, was reported to have taken issue with a section which said it was hoped the findings would not be “seized upon by elected members or their parties and used for political gain”.
It was also reported he listened to a message left on his mobile by a journalist during the meeting despite being asked not to use his phone and then jokingly asked one of the two female lawyers present “shall I just pass the phone to you to comment?”.
In a letter to councillors following the alleged incident Mr Diaz-Rainey said: “It is disgraceful that a Councillor should choose to make a provocative gesture such as pressing a junior member of the inquiry team to answer a journalist’s call, especially when previously requested to not use his phone.
“I am shocked to hear of such manifestly unacceptable behaviour from councillor of the City of Edinburgh Council; one who I would expect to hold himself to an elevated standards of behaviour given the public-facing nature of his role.
“I would also add that given the topic of the report his behaviour demonstrated a clear lack of judgement.”
McLellan, a former editor of The Scotsman and the Edinburgh Evening News, served as the Scottish Conservative Party’s media chief before being elected as a councillor in 2017.
He said: “I continue to deny the allegations against me. I’ve still got the discuss the matter with my solicitor but I refute the allegations of shouting and banging my fists on the table.”
Councillor Day said: “I understand the ethical standards commission have recommended a formal hearing be held to ascertain the facts of these worrying allegations that a (former) councillor was abusive to a young female lawyer doing her job as part of the council investigation into past abuse.
“I’m sure the standards commission will deal with this appropriately, fairly and robustly, and former councillor McLellan will take the steps he feels are necessary given their decision and outcome of the hearing.”
The hearing date has been set for Monday, October 9.