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Gay council chief accused of abusing authority over LGBT staff network

Jessica Geen October 6, 2009

An openly gay council leader in Aberdeen has been accused of abusing his authority to set up an LGBT staff network.

John Stewart, a Liberal Democrat, send a confidential email to hundreds of council staff saying that if interested, they should meet him and his civil partner in a nearby gay bar to discuss the idea.

Opposition Labour and Conservative councillors have accused him of having the wrong priorities, while some have said he was trying to address a personal agenda.

Tory councillor Jim Farquharson told the Press & Journal: “We have so many issues, so many problems, that to be focusing in on that looks much more like a personal agenda than anything relating to the council.

“I don’t talk about my lifestyle, it is not part of the council’s duties, and I thought it was an abuse of his power and authority.”

Labour spokesman Willie Young added: “I find it incredible that the leader of the council has time to explore setting up a LGBT staff group given the current state of the authority.”

The council is currently battling to make £60million of budget cuts.

Stewart admitted he had sent the email in work time and from his work email account but said the three-line message took just “seconds” to send.

He said that the network would cost the taxpayer nothing and added: “I really do not know why they [his opponents] are getting their knickers in a twist about this.

“Part of the programme is to have a network and all I am doing is trying to find out if we can facilitate that. Councillor Young is welcome but under no obligation to come along.”

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