Sunday 24 September 2017

Complaints spark probe of councillors' expenses

Greg Harkin

COUNCIL officials are examining 22 complaints about politicians' expenses at a local authority, the Irish Independent has learned.

The allegations, which were all made anonymously, are the subject of inquiries by senior civil servants at Donegal County Council.

It's understood the 22 complaints relate to both former and sitting county councillors.

However, a number of those councillors have told the Irish Independent that they believe the complaints are malicious.

County manager Seamus Neely and former mayor Frank McBrearty sent details of three of the allegations to the Standards In Public Office Commission (SIPO), the organisation confirmed.

"These cases were received on Monday and they will be examined before any decision on a full-scale investigation takes place," said a SIPO spokesman.

The decision to pass those three complaints to SIPO was taken after an initial investigation by the council's director of service Liam Ward, who is also the council's ethics registrar.

Many of the allegations were signed "Taxpayers of Donegal and Ratepayers of Donegal."

SIPO has already initiated a full inquiry into expenses allegations made against former county councillor and sitting Fianna Fail senator Brian O Domhnaill.

The senator, from Gortahork in north Donegal, denies all the allegations and has been granted permission in the High Court to seek a Judicial Review of SIPO's decision to investigate the claims against him.

One sitting councillor, Terence Slowey, was expelled from Fine Gael two years ago when SIPO found he had made one erroneous claim for expenses.

He apologised for what he said was a "genuine mistake" and now sits as an independent.

VICTIM

Donegal County Council said all those named in the correspondence had been informed of the contents of the letters written about them.

It's understood Mr Ward will examine the remaining 19 claims before deciding whether or not to pass them to his county manager Mr Neely and new council mayor Ian McGarvey. They can then decide whether or not to pass the allegations to SIPO or dismiss them.

The confirmation of the allegations comes just days after it was revealed Mr Ward had been the victim of a vicious online hate campaign in recent weeks.

Irish Independent

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