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Wednesday 17 September 2014

Angela Kerins' resignation letter: 'I have endured threats to my personal safety'

Former Rehab boss says her lawyers are 'firmly dealing with false allegations'

Geraldine Gittens and Shane Phelan

Published 02/04/2014 | 07:54

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Angela Kerins

ANGELA Kerins has said in her resignation letter, seen by independent.ie, that she has enountered "threats" to her personal safety during the public controversy over her salary as CEO of the Rehab Group.

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Ms Kerins has stepped down as CEO because of the "toll" the controversy over Rehab's finances and her salary has taken.

In her statement, which can be read in full by clicking here, she said: "In recent months, I have become increasingly concerned about the toll that public controversy has taken on the Rehab Group, its friends and supporters, my own family and personally."

"In addition I have had to deal with threats to personal safety and also false allegations which my lawyers are firmly dealing with."

"I have dedicated my energies and abilities to growing and developing the activities of the Rehab Group for the last 22 years.

"While it is difficult to do, I am of the clear view that it is in the best interests of all concerned that I step down at this time."

Ms Kerins said she will "maintain a keen interest in the progress of the Rehab Group".

Today chairman of the Rehab Group, Brian Kerr thanked Ms Kerins for her "dedication and resolve".

He confirmed that she was stepping down and thanked her for "leadership of the Rehab Group over the last seven years and wish her every success in the future”.

The move comes following intense scrutiny of Ms Kerins' salary, and those of senior executives within the group, which receives over €80m a year in state funding.

It is understood that Ms Kerins will also refer to the impact that the intense scrutiny has had on her, and on her family in recent months. The charity boss has been ill for the past four weeks or so. 

Ms Kerins revealed in February she was on a salary of €240,000, making her by far the best paid charity sector boss in the country.

However, for months before then she had refused to divulge details of her salary.

The issue triggered a huge level of scrutiny of Rehab's operations and culminated with an appearance before the PAC later the same month.

However, TDs were highly critical of her performance before the committee, with its chairman John McGuinness, accusing her of giving incomplete evidence.

Rehab eventually provided further information about staff pay, revealing 12 senior members of the management team at Rehab Group earn over €100,000-a-year.

Some executives also earned bonuses of up to €14,200 as recently as two years ago and all of them have "a contractual entitlement to performance-related pay".

Apart from Ms Kerins, another staff member earns between €170,000 and €179,000.

Three senior executives are on between €150,000 and €159,000.

Ms Kerins also faced criticism for not bringing former Rehab chief executive Frank Flannery to the PAC with her.

His presence had been requested by the committee, which had questions about his pension and other matters, including a coffin importation business.

Last month the PAC referred a letter to the gardai which it received from a former property developer, John Kelly,  relating to his alleged involvement with Rehab Group.

PAC chairman John McGuinness said: "The statement contains a number of serious allegations against individuals who have or had associations with Rehab Group."

Mr McGuinness said the matters raised in the letter were outside the committee's remit and had been forwarded to the gardai. "They could potentially involve criminal wrongdoing," he said.

Rehab has also faced criticism over the performance of its lottery division.

Rehab Lotteries recorded the paltry surplus in 2012 when it sold 1.9 million scratch cards with a value of €3.4m.

The lottery had received €32m in grants under a State compensation scheme since 2007.

Ms Kerins, who is 55, had not been due to retire for another four years, but reviewed her position in recent weeks.

She had been due to appear for a second time before the Dail's Public Account Committee on April 10. She will have a notice period to work out, but it is unclear whether she will attend PAC next Thursday.

Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said she expected Ms Kerins to “co-operate fully with the PAC – whether she has resigned or not – as the outgoing chief executive officer”.

Ms McDonald said: “It does strike me as though as we possible seeing a resignation in the vain hope of avoiding any further questioning around pay arrangements within Rehab and other very serious matters that related to this group.

“That was my first reaction when I heard this news," the TD said on Newstalk.

“Those at the highest echelons of Rehab were not inclined to come forward and give information in a full and frank way. They had to be dragged kicking and screaming. Frank Flannery’s resignation seemed to me to be in a fit of pique and a reaction to the committee asking questions of him.

“But I am appreciative of the fact that Mr Flannery will be with us on 10 April.

“Ms Kerins was less than forthcoming with the committee and was not fulsome with her responses. A lot of her answers were extremely vague and you couldn’t help  but form the view that she felt that this was none of our business and none of the general public’s business.

“Let’s see what her statement says. Just as Frank Flannery  will be with us on April 10, we do expect and we will be asking for the co-operation of Angela Kerins, irrespective of the fact that she has resigned," she added.

Pay experts hired by the Rehab Group last month produced a report which found that Ms Kerins' €240,000 salary was 21pc less than the market average. It is unclear how her retirement will impact on her pension.

Her retirement follows the resignation from Rehab of one of its directors, Frank Flannery, while its PR advisor, Michael Parker, also left his role in recent weeks.

Chief executive of Barnardos in Ireland, Fergus Finlay admitted on the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk that he was surprised by the timing of the announcement.

“I was surprised by the timing. I had been expected that she would go in front of the PAC and now I have no idea whether she will or not. I assumed that she would have kept any statement until after that," he said.

“But I am more conscious of the damage that has been caused across the sector that I work in. The reputational damage that has been done.

“I don’t think Angela Kerins has anyone to blame but herself.

“The whole key to this controversy has been the decision not to be transparent and that has led us to this point.

“A decision was made [in Rehab] to try and be as unforthcoming as possible. Not just in respect of her salary but in respect of some of the other salaries in Rehab and some of the operations in Rehab. It generated a - probably unfounded - suspicion that there was something to hide here.

“It makes no sense that an organisation which enjoys the benefit of a charity number – irrespective of the fact that they have other operations – all of their operations benefitted from the availability of a charity number.

“Rehab had substantial monies in the bank and they earned substantial interest on that. If they were a commercial entity, they would have had to pay DIRT on that. They weren’t and because of that, they owed the duty of transparency.

“That decision – which I take to be her decision, to be perfectly frank about it – was what caused all the trouble.

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