Galway county councillor Michael Fahy went on trial yesterday on charges of attempted theft, false accounting and attempting to make a gain for himself or cause a loss to the council by deception.
Mr Fahy (57), from Caherduff, Ardrahan, has denied seven charges in respect of the operation of a Community Involvement Scheme alongside his land in Ardrahan in 2002 and 2003.
The case, which is expected to last at least until the end of this week, is being heard before a jury and Judge Michael White at Galway Circuit Criminal Court.
The counts specifically allege that:
l Mr Fahy caused €7,055 to be paid by Galway County Council to a fencing company for his own benefit in 2002.
l That he attempted to dishonestly appropriate €7,523 from the council in 2003.
l That he attempted to dishonestly obtain €7,523 in 2003 by falsely pretending that two fencing company invoices referred to work carried out under a County Council Community Involvement Scheme at Ardrahan.
Daniel Barrett, a retired senior executive officer with Galway Co Council, told the court that the purpose of a Community Involvement Scheme was to get communities involved in the improvement or maintenance of local roads.
The areas to be improved or maintained were not determined by council officials, but by elected councillors.
Mr Barrett said he recalled received a request under the Freedom of Information Act in June 2004 from a newspaper reporter for information which seemed to him to refer to the subject of the court proceedings.
The FOI Act required the council to provide the information, unless there was a provision which required that it not be disclosed.
At the time, he decided there wasn't anything in the act to warrant a refusal.
Mr Barrett pointed out that the matter had not at this stage been referred to gardai for investigation.
Asked by defence counsel Bernard Madden if he had furnished the information to the reporter, Mr Barrett said the information had not been made available.
"I didn't make that decision", he said.
Asked who had made the decision, Mr Barrett said that the county manager at the time had done so.
The case continues.