Sunday 24 September 2017

Civil service 'strikers' met councillor in bully claims

Declan Bree has been accused of bullying.
Declan Bree has been accused of bullying.

Greg Harkin

A CIVIL service 'strike,' which has led to the crippling of a local council, has been questioned after an Irish Independent investigation showed council staff have attended other meetings with a controversial councillor.

The work of Sligo Borough Council has ground to a halt since July, leading to the cancellation of Christmas lights for the town and leaving a dozen organisations out of pocket.

The council must meet to sign off on grants for local projects.

The row centres on independent councillor Declan Bree, with council officials insisting they have been bullied by him. They have refused to attend any borough council meetings since the summer.

A HR consultant was brought in to monitor meetings – at a cost of €50,000 – as Mr Bree insisted he had done nothing wrong. But a trawl of minutes shows that officials who refused to attend meetings, because of the presence of Mr Bree, actually did go to other meetings where he was also in attendance.

There were three officials at the borough council meeting on March 4 this year, which sparked a walk-out of officials.

County manager Hubert Kearns, the acting director of services Paula Gallagher and Mary Blowick, the meetings administrator, were all there.

When the county manager announced they were walking out in protest at questions directed at Ms Gallagher from Mr Bree, the others followed.

However, Ms Gallagher went on to attend two sittings of the county council – on April 8 and April 15 – where Mr Bree also sits as an elected representative.

Another senior council official also attended two meetings where Mr Bree was present.

No one from SIPTU or the council responded to Irish Independent queries last night.

Irish Independent

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