THE head of a charity set up to tackle poverty in one of the poorest parts of Scotland has been given a golden goodbye worth £500,000 by Labour councillors, the Sunday Herald can reveal.
Ronnie Saez landed a package worth around six times his salary after being made redundant from his post as chief executive of Glasgow East Regeneration Agency (GERA).
His exit deal comprised a "severance payment" of £42,000 and a £470,000 boost to his pension, which included a discretionary £208,000.
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According to an internal report leaked to the Sunday Herald, the pension top-up was paid for using reserves earmarked for the redevelopment of a school in Dalmarnock, a deprivation blackspot.
Three of the five GERA directors who approved the Saez deal were Labour councillors in Glasgow. The GERA chair was James Coleman, a former deputy council leader; the vice-chair was Councillor Catherine McMaster; and the third councillor was George Redmond, who signed off the accounts last month.
Since leaving GERA, Saez has set himself up as a consultant, briefly going into business with Frank McAveety, the former Labour MSP.
Opposition parties last night called for the charity watchdog, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR), to investigate.
GERA's income last year was £12.4 million. As members of GERA, Glasgow City Council, Scottish Enterprise and Glasgow Community Planning Ltd were entitled to nominate its seven board members.
Founded in 2007, GERA was one of five regeneration agencies in the city helping people find jobs. Last April, the five agencies were merged into a single body, Glasgow's Regeneration Agency, resulting in some staff being made redundant.
GERA was also a charity, with a prime goal "to relieve and/or prevent poverty particularly among residents of East Glasgow".
On March 28, three days before his departure, Saez's exit package was agreed by GERA's board. The Labour directors and two others took part.
Saez, 50 at the time, had worked at the council for many years before heading GERA. He was not then a council employee, but asked to be treated as one, which added an extra six years and 248 days of service to his pension, costing GERA £208,000.
Glasgow's Regeneration Agency later discovered that Saez's deal was unique among the five agencies, that the GERA board failed to consult external auditors or employment law advisers, and that Saez got money from both voluntary and compulsory redundancy schemes. The new agency's board, although unhappy, was powerless to change things.
In September, Saez became a director of Divercity (Scotland) Ltd and Regeneration Solutions (UK). Divercity (Scotland) Ltd is also a charity, and offers consultancy work on inclusion and equality.
Its website says Glasgow City Council is a client. Frank McAveety, the former Labour MSP for Glasgow Shettleston, was a director at Divercity until mid-October, when he resigned to stand for the council.
Saez is the sole director of, and shareholder in, Regeneration Solutions (UK) Ltd, which is based at his £400,000 detached home in Paisley.
Saez, whose father Charles was chair of Provan Labour Party in Glasgow's east end in the 1980s, denied there was anything untoward or distasteful about his exit package and said senior council officials had known about it. He also denied a cosy relationship with Labour.
Asked about the possibility of the watchdog investigating, he said: "If OSCR want to have a look at it then fine ... I don't see that there's anything wrong in me being treating on a par with other local authority employees in the same circumstances."
John Mason, SNP MSP for Shettleson, said the pay-off was "morally questionable" and urged the OSCR and council auditors to investigate.
Tory city councillor David Meikle added: "I'm shocked at this sum. OSCR should investigate."
Coleman said the deal was "routine". "We must have felt he deserved it," he said.