independent

Thursday 24 April 2014

CRC school staff call for charity's board to resign

27/04/2012  - NEWS - Brian Conlan , Mater Hospital Chief Executive  announcing the first phase opening of the new 284 million Euro Mater Campus Hospital Development  
Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES
Brian Conlan, the CRC's former chief executive, who resigned this week, has agreed to appear before the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) next month.

STAFF at the Central Remedial Clinic's (CRC) school have written to the under-fire board of the clinic demanding their resignations.

More than 50 front-line staff, who have sustained pay cuts and watched services to disabled children suffer from cutbacks, have put their names to a letter expressing their "outrage and disappointment" at the revelations about top-ups to senior executives' salaries.

And they accused the board of "defending the status quo at all costs".

The letter emerged as Brian Conlan, the CRC's former chief executive, who resigned this week, has agreed to appear before the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) next month.

CRC board members are coming under increasing pressure to consider their positions after an explosive meeting of the PAC where a number of TDs asked if they would consider resigning.

Last night, Justice Minister Alan Shatter joined the chorus of calls for the board of the CRC to resign, saying: "The revelations have given an insight into some financial dealings that I believe were completely and highly inappropriate for any charitable organisation."

CONTROVERSY

The clinic has been mired in controversy since it emerged that one of the executives, former CRC boss Paul Kiely, had his €106,000 salary topped up by a further €136,000 using funds provided by an associated organisation Friends and Supporters of the CRC.

At the PAC on Wednesday, Mr Kiely revealed that funds from the same company were used to pay him a €200,000 lump sum upon his retirement last summer.

He also revealed that he had stood down from the board in recent weeks.

His successor, Mr Conlan, did not appear before the PAC.

Last night, Mr Conlan had made contact with the committee and he will give evidence in early January. His spokesman confirmed that Mr Conlan had contacted the PAC and said he would appear, but refused to comment further last night.

Committee chairman John McGuinness welcomed the development, commenting that his appearance would be "another step in ensuring that this issue of top-ups to the pay and other packages are consigned to history".

The CRC school, which adjoins the clinic building, caters for children with physical and learning disabilities in primary and second level.

A total of 54 staff members signed a letter to the CRC board. The CRC school's staff wrote: "We, the undersigned, staff of the Central Remedial Clinic School, would like to express our outrage and disappointment at the recent disclosures regarding salary 'top-ups'."

They said they are "acutely aware that cutbacks in disability funding have impacted negatively on the lives of the families with whom we work", adding: "We share their shock and frustration at these revelations."

"The present board has responded to the crisis by defending the status quo at all costs and, in our opinion, lacks the vision and commitment needed to reconnect with our service users and with the general public. Therefore, we call on the board to resign."

Speaking to the Irish Independent earlier this week, CRC chairman and acting chief executive Jim Nugent said the board had no intention of resigning, adding: "Nor does the board believe that anything that has been said would warrant that."

The board of the CRC did not respond to Irish Independent queries last night asking if they would resign in light of the teachers' letter, nor did they respond when asked what steps they intended to take to restore the charity's reputation.

Meanwhile, one staff member who has worked at the CRC for almost four decades has expressed his distress at the ongoing controversy at the charity. Gerry O'Brien said coverage of the row over salary top-ups has been "heartbreaking" and believes the "only way forward" is for a new board of directors to be elected.

In a letter sent to the Irish Independent, Mr O'Brien wrote: "I am a staff member of the CRC and I have Cerebral Palsy.

"The recent media coverage of the CRC in my opinion has been heartbreaking," he said.

"I feel the media have not considered the backlash of abuse that the staff are taking through no fault of their own, as they are still trying to go about their daily jobs."

Mr O'Brien added: "I feel the CRC board of governors should reflect on their behaviour and how it has affected people like myself and my colleagues."

Irish Independent

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