An investigation has been launched after a businessman donated £2,000 to local Conservatives days before party members voted to let his firm off tens of thousands of pounds due for public
Tory councillors yesterday said there had been no wrong-doing.
Fash Ghiaci's company, City Gateway Developments, was expected to be asked to contribute £115,974 towards transport infrastructure and £30,000 to public art in Portslade.
The payments were recommended as conditions of planning permission the firm had been granted by Brighton and Hove City Council in
November to create a performing arts school and leisure centre at the derelict Flexer Sacks warehouse in Wellington Road, Portslade.
But they were scrapped by Conservatives at a planning committee meeting on February 4 despite being recommended by council officers.
Mr Ghiaci's firm pleaded for them to be dropped saying it could not afford to go ahead with the scheme with them in place.
He argued it would be of greater public interest for the site to be developed, creating new jobs.
Five of the six Conservatives on the committee voted to drop the charges, with councillor Dawn Barnett abstaining. Five of the six Labour and Green members voted against that proposal, while Labour
councillor Les Hamilton abstained. Conservative chairwoman Lynda Hyde used her casting vote to pass the motion.
It has now emerged that Coun Hamilton subsequently lodged a formal complaint with the council's standards board.
He said yesterday he had yet to receive a final response, five months later, but had revived the complaint this week after details of Mr Ghiaci's donation to the Hove Conservative Association were
published on the Electoral Commission's website.
The £2,000 handout was received on January 30, five days before the planning meeting.
No evidence has been produced that the payment had influenced the outcome of the meeting but Coun Hamilton has demanded transparency in all councillors' dealings.
The developer and Tory councillors have rejected the criticisms. The Hove Conservative Association is one of three in the city and it is understood only three of the six Conservatives on the
committee are members.
Mr Ghiaci said the donation had no relation to the application.
Coun Hamilton's original complaint was about the conduct of Conservative councillor Ayas Fallon-Khan, who was not a planning committee member but was added as a substitute for party colleague Carol
The complaint said Coun Fallon-Khan had attended a two-hour meeting the previous week with Mr Ghiaci and the council's acting chief executive Alex Bailey.
Coun Hamilton said Coun Fallon-Khan should have declared that he had such a meeting and should not have taken part in the vote. He added that the donation should have been declared by Conservative
members of the committee.
Mr Ghiaci yesterday confirmed he had made the donation and added he had also donated to the Liberal Democrats in Lewes. He said there was nothing untoward in his actions.
He said: "I sincerely believe that anyone would make a better job of running the country than the current regime and I don’t think that I am alone in that belief so I am happy to support change."
He said the meeting with Coun Fallon-Khan and Mr Bailey had been about an unrelated project called City Angels which was based in the ward the Conservative represented.
He added he had met with senior officers of other councils for the same reason.
Coun Hyde said Coun Fallon-Khan had stepped into the committee at the last minute because Coun Theobald's daughter had gone into labour and she could not attend.
She said she was completely unaware of any donation made by Mr Ghiaci and added she was not a member of the Hove Conservative Association.
Coun Hyde said: "These are unsubstantiated allegations. There is no evidence there has been any wrong-doing but we understand the council is investigating a complaint. We look forward to the
outcome of this investigation as we are confident that Coun Fallon-Khan has done nothing wrong."
A council spokeswoman confirmed it was investigating a complaint. They estimated it would take a further month to complete.
Coun Fallon-Khan said: “These are, yet again, completely unfounded allegations where there has been no impropriety whatsoever. “There has been complete co-operation with the internal investigation
and we are looking forward to the result. “We will continue to concentrate on our priorities of keeping the council tax low, economic regeneration of the city and delivering our ambitious