independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Councillors in expenses probe vow to clear names

TWO Fianna Fail councillors at the centre of an expenses probe have vowed to clear their names after the Irish Independent learned their actions actually saved ratepayers’ money.

Donegal County Councillors Dessie Larkin and David Alcorn have insisted anonymous allegations made against them are possible ‘technical’ breaches of local government ethics on expenses.

The duo – and a third councillor, independent Padraig O’Dochertaigh – were all named in a council statement yesterday.

That statement followed a report in the Irish Independent yesterday which also revealed all three were the subject of initial queries by the Standards In Public Office commission.

It was also revealed that the council’s Ethics Registrar Liam Ward is examining 19 other anonymous complaints against councillors and former councillors in Donegal.

The Irish Independent has learned that the single complaint against Cllr Larkin, a former Mayor, centres on his claim for mileage when he drove home between two conferences, instead of travelling from one to the other.

It’s understood however that the mileage claim was less than the overnight allowance he would have received had he followed procedures.

Cllr Alcorn confirmed to the Irish Independent that he had seen the allegations against him and that he had given “a comprehensive explanation” for his expenses claims.

“There is an alleged issue in relation to the partial attendance of a conference,” he said.

“I clearly and honestly only claimed for partial attendance of a conference when I submitted my original expenses claim.

“I am bitterly disappointed that three comprehensive responses given by me to the council were not accepted, but I will follow the process from here and I am confident I will clear my name after 44 years working for my community,” he added.

Cllr O’Dochartaigh was unavailable for comment but supporters of the former Fine Gael councillor said he also believed he had done nothing wrong.

It’s understood that council officials believe the raft of complaints – now totalling 22 – have been send in to the local authority’s headquarters in Lifford by several different people.

In a statement, a council spokeswoman said: “The matters related to certain expense claims made for travelling and subsistence by the Councillors concerned in respect of attendances at conferences/other events in the years 2006 to 2009.  “After detailed consideration of the matter, the Mayor (at the time) and County Manager jointly concluded that the matters should be referred to the Standards in Public Office Commission.

”This position was confirmed in writing to all relevant parties on Friday 21st June, 2013.  It would be inappropriate now to comment further, pending the outcome of the Commission’s deliberations on the matter.”

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