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Councillor claimed expenses "recklessly" and "did not act in good faith"

Donegal councillor Pádraig Doherty contravened sections of the Local Government Act and the Code of Conduct for councillors.

A DONEGAL COUNCILLOR who contravened the Local Government Act while claiming expenses acted “recklessly” while doing so.

That’s the opinion of the Standards Commission, which investigated the case of expenses claimed by Cllr Pádraig Doherty and found him in contravention of the Local Government Act and the Code of Conduct for councillors.

SIPO found that each of Cllr Doherty’s contraventions “was committed recklessly and was, in all the circumstances, a serious matter”.

The Commission also found that Doherty did not act in good faith in relation to each of the contraventions.

The investigation

The Standards Commission’s investigation report looked into alleged contraventions of the Ethical Framework for the Local Government Service (Part 15 of the Local Government Act 2001) and the Ethics in Public Office Acts 1995 and 2001 by former Councillor Pádraig Doherty of Donegal County Council.

The report follows an investigation hearing held on 12 May this year.

The Standards Commission found that Doherty:

  • Contravened sections 168 and 169(3) of the Local Government Act 2001
  • Acted in disregard of provisions of the Code of Conduct for Councillors
  • And did a ‘specified act’ within the meaning of the Standards in Public Office Act 2001

He did these by claiming travelling expenses from Údarás na Gaeltachta for attending the Association of County and City Councils’ Annual Conference 2007 at The Park Hotel, Dungarvan, County Waterford on 8, 9 and 10 March 2007, and later also claiming travelling and subsistence expenses for attending the same conference from Donegal County Council.

The Standards Commission also found that Doherty contravened the Local Government Act 2001, disregarded provisions of the Code of Conduct for Councillors and did a ‘specified act’ by claiming travelling expenses from Donegal County Council for attending the Irish Central Border Area Network Conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dundalk on 20 November 2008 and later also claiming expenses for attending a meeting of Údarás na Gaeltachta in Furbo, Co Galway on 21 November 2008.

Separate claims

The commission found that Doherty was not entitled to make separate claims for his journeys from home to Dundalk and then from home to Furbo.

It said that he should have made a claim to Donegal County Council for his journey from home to Dundalk, and then made a claim to Údarás na Gaeltachta for journeys from Dundalk to Furbo and from Furbo to his home.

The Standards Commission also found that Doherty contravened two sections of the Local Government Act 2001, acted in disregard of provisions of the Code of Conduct for Councillors and did a ‘specified act’ by claiming an overnight subsistence allowance from Údarás na Gaeltachta for attending a meeting of Údarás na Gaeltachta in Furbo, County Galway on 21 November 2008 when he had not availed of accommodation to justify the claim.

Concern about expenses claims

The report has been sent to Doherty, Seamus Neely, Chief Executive, Donegal County Manager and Councillor John Campbell, Mayor, Donegal County Council (whose predecessors made the complaint to the Standards Commission).

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, and to the Minister for Environment, Phil Hogan, will also receive a copy.

In his letter to the Howlin, the Commission Chairperson, Daniel O’Keeffe, said that the Commission is “concerned at the scope for abuse by persons making such claims to more than one public body”.

He also asked that he consider putting in place arrangements across the public service for public bodies to ensure that only the appropriate amounts within the relevant regulations are paid in response to claims by people to more than one body in the same period.

The investigation report can be read on the Commission’s website.

Read: Noel Rock: I’m taking €0 expenses – here’s why>

Read: Seanad committee wins appeal over Ivor Callelly expense claims>

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