'How much was your legal bill, Lucinda?' - Lucinda Creighton suffers blow to campaign after State's ethics watchdog refuses request
Renua leader Lucinda Creighton has suffered a blow to her election campaign after the State's ethics watchdog refused her request to issue a public statement on the controversy surrounding her legal fees.
The Standards in Public Office Commission is reviewing a complaint about legal fees she incurred during her High Court battle with property developer Michael O'Flynn.
It has been alleged she received a benefit in kind, which should have been publicly declared. Ms Creighton must now wait until next month for the outcome of Sipo's review.
The complaint to Sipo claims she received a benefit through the alleged receipt of a partial settlement, discount or forbearance on the payment of legal fees she incurred from her barristers and solicitor.
Ms Creighton says she paid her legal bill in full.
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But she is now being challenged to reveal her legal costs publicly to prove she did not breach any ethics rules.
Fine Gael candidate Kate O'Connell, a constituency rival in Dublin Bay South, is calling on the Renua leader to back up her claim and release the legal costs.
"The way I understand it, there's two questions here - how much was the bill for the legal fees and how much of it was paid for by Deputy Creighton," Ms O'Connell told the Irish Independent. "Getting her solicitor to say 'there was a bill and the bill was paid' does not answer those questions. Two days in the High Court costs a lot of money."
Ms Creighton wrote to Sipo yesterday asking the watchdog to publicly state its position on the complaint.
In a letter seen by the Irish Independent, Sipo secretary Paddy Walsh told Ms Creighton he "regrets" the commission cannot comply with her request to issue a statement on the complaint.
Mr Walsh also turned down her request to convene the commission to deal with the complaint urgently. Instead, it will be examined on March 14.
However, he added: "I can also confirm that the commission has not received any evidence from the complainant to support the complaint against Ms Creighton, although requested."
Two weeks ago, she said she would provide "evidence" to prove she did not receive reduced legal fees from her solicitor or barristers, which should have been publicly declared.
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Since then, she released a letter from legal firm, Simon McAleese Solicitors, which was written on her request last week, stating Ms Creighton paid the bill she received from the firm. The letter does not say if she did or did not receive discounted fees.
Ms Creighton dismissed the complaint to Sipo as "frivolous".
"A complaint was made about me by an anonymous person six months ago which was found not to present prima facie evidence and was thrown out by Sipo," she said.
"They didn't even contact me about it because it was so frivolous and baseless and without any proof and that exact same complaint was made, again with no evidence, was furnished two days after this election was called. My solicitor has clearly stated and I provided that to both Sipo and the 'Sunday Independent', which said clearly that I was billed for my legal receipts and they were discharged in full," she added.
Asked by the Irish Independent if she was charged the full rate by Simon McAleese Solicitors, Ms Creighton said that was a question for the firm.
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"You will have to speak to Simon McAleese about what they charge. I have no idea. They charged me for services provided to me and I paid them in full. If you want to question that, go back to Simon McAleese," she said.
Simon McAleese Solicitors did not respond to requests for comment last night.