Saturday 23 September 2017

Sacked traffic warden took photos of bosses, tribunal told

Patricia McCafferty leaving Donegal town courthouse, after an Employment Appeals Tribunal heard her case against her former employer, Bundoran Town Council
Patricia McCafferty leaving Donegal town courthouse, after an Employment Appeals Tribunal heard her case against her former employer, Bundoran Town Council

Greg Harkin

A TRAFFIC warden fired from her job by a town council had harassed her colleagues, a tribunal has been told.

Patricia McCafferty was appearing at an Employment Appeals Tribunal hearing, sitting at Donegal Town Court.

She took photographs of her bosses at Bundoran Town Council as they arrived at work and left to go home, it was alleged.

The Rights Commissioner has already upheld the decision of the council to dismiss Ms McCafferty for gross misconduct.

Sean Sheridan, now retired from his position as the council's manager, complained that someone had "photographed me again today".

His evidence to the three-person panel had to be delayed after lawyers for the council claimed that somebody in the court was attempting to film the proceedings.

The panel adjourned for a short time so assurances could be given that the proceedings were not being recorded.

Mr Sheridan cited a series of incidents in May and June 2007 which led to his decision to fire Ms McCafferty, including failing to carry out her duties.

In one instance, he said, the traffic and litter warden had followed Bundoran's fire brigade to the scene of a burning lorry in Co Leitrim. When she was there, the fire crew noted that Ms McCafferty was taking pictures of them.

One of the crew took a picture of Ms McCafferty taking pictures. The photograph showed her holding a camera beside her vehicle.

It was alleged that this happened outside the town council area and at a time when she should have been on duty.

"She advised me that she had responded to an anonymous phone call about an abandoned car," said Mr Sheridan.

"This wasn't provided for in her duties. On the basis of the evidence submitted, I concluded that she hadn't provided a satisfactory explanation.

"Her suggestion that she was investigating the incident didn't seem credible.There was no logical reason for her to be following the fire brigade outside the town and outside the area where she worked."

On a number of occasions, Mr Sheridan said, Ms McCafferty had made false allegations claiming that she had been told not to issue parking tickets to certain people in Bundoran.

On other occasions, she was accused of taking pictures of building sites while on duty.

'Corruption'

She had also conducted a radio interview while on duty, accusing the council of putting lives at risk by failing to carry out roadworks she believed needed to be done.

Asked by the council's barrister, Marcus Dowling, about allegations she made about corruption in the council, Mr Sheridan responded: "She had no evidence to support the allegations and there is a framework in the ethics legislation which she could use but this never happened.

"She should at least have some evidence to support it and this was never produced.

"There were complaints from staff members and members of the public that they were being followed, harassed and photographed. If there were any members of staff in any pictures she had taken, she said it was purely coincidental."

Ms McCafferty stood by her claims that she had gone to the scene of a fire to check for an abandoned vehicle.

"Why would I follow a fire engine?" she asked the tribunal.

She described her claims of corruption as "throwaway comments" but Mr Dowling said she painted 'Bundoran Town Council are corrupt' on the side of her vehicle in 2009 when she stood for election.

But Mr Dowling told the tribunal's panel: "Ms McCafferty has made a number of unsubstantiated allegations about tickets not being issued to certain people. The council hotly disputes this.

"There is another background to this, where Ms McCafferty was once a member of Fianna Fail and there was a falling out. No evidence has ever been produced of corruption at the council and this has been totally denied."

The hearing concluded and a judgment will be issued in due course.

Irish Independent

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