Tuesday 17 October 2017

Council engineer investigated by ethics watchdog

Patricia McDonagh

A LOCAL authority engineer is to be formally investigated by the State's ethics watchdog for his alleged failure to disclose all of his property interests to council officials.

The Standards in Public Office (SIPO) Commission is also investigating an alleged conflict of interest involving Mayo County Council senior executive engineer Kieran Lynn, the Irish Independent has learned.

The investigation is the first by SIPO into any public servant working for the State.

It is understood SIPO will next month ask Mr Lynn to appear before a public hearing to probe the issues, with a provisional date for the hearing set for October 15.

If proven, both allegations would be breaches of the Ethical Framework for the Local Government Service, which is part of the Local Government Act 2001.

And if it is found that a failure to disclose property interests was intentional, SIPO can refer the case to the DPP and a criminal prosecution could be initiated.

Last night, Mr Lynn insisted he was making "no comment" on the investigation.

The formal probe follows an preliminary inquiry by a SIPO officer into a complaint made against Mr Lynn earlier this year.

On foot of this gathering of evidence, SIPO decided to proceed with a public investigation into alleged contraventions of sections of the Local Government Act 2001.

The hearing will investigate allegations that Mr Lynn used his official position in the council and resources in his work to improve access to property he owned.

Declaration

Such a move would be in contravention of the Local Government Act 2001 if proven.

It will also examine allegations that Mr Lynn failed to disclose four properties in the 2003, 2004, and 2009 registers of interests.

Under current laws, all local authority staff must disclose any property they own in an annual declaration of certain "declarable interests".

The public hearing will be just the third to take place in the lifetime of the ethics watchdog.

The most recent was in 2007, when SIPO held a public hearing into Fianna Fail town councillor Patrick O'Donoghue.

He became the first politician in the country to be sentenced in a criminal court under new ethics laws.

He was fined €5,000 after pleading guilty to trying to influence a planning decision relating to the re-zoning of lands surrounding his family's multimillion-euro hotel business in Killarney, Co Kerry.

SIPO also initiated an investigation into former Fianna Fail TD Michael Collins in 2004.

A spokeswoman for Mayo County Council refused to comment on the investigation into Mr Lynn, insisting it was a matter for SIPO.

Irish Independent

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