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Tuesday 27 September 2016

Council chief could be axed over ethics findings

Published 04/11/2015 | 02:30

Mr Caffrey is due to retire next spring
Mr Caffrey is due to retire next spring

A County council boss who failed to fully disclose his interest in a property could be suspended or removed from his position.

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The fate of Longford County Council CEO Tim Caffrey now lies in the hands of councillors after the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) found he had breached ethics legislation.

In a damning report, Sipo said Mr Caffrey had "not acted in good faith" and had been "negligent to a high degree" when he failed to fully declare his interest in a house that was to be bought through the local authority for a housing charity.

Sipo's report has been referred to Longford County Council mayor Gerry Warnock and is to be considered by councillors, who will decide what action should be taken against Mr Caffrey.

Options open to them, under the Local Government Act 2001, include suspension or removal.

In a statement, Mr Caffrey said he was "very disappointed with the findings" and was considering seeking a judicial review. He insisted he had always acted in good faith in public office during "an unblemished career of 45 years as a public servant in local government".

Mr Caffrey is due to retire next spring.

At a hearing in September, he insisted he told other senior executives of his interest in the house in Clondra, Co Longford.

He maintained, however, that he was not aware he was also required to disclose his interest in writing to the then mayor. The requirement is set out in Section 178 of the Local Government Act.

Duties

However, in its ruling, Sipo said a lack of knowledge of the provisions of the Act was no excuse and there was a fundamental duty on all public officials to fully inform themselves of all relevant statutory duties.

"Mr Caffrey was negligent to a high degree in not doing so and given the importance of the provision and the degree of negligence, the commission finds that the contravention by Mr Caffrey was a serious matter," the Sipo ruling said.

The four-bedroom house at the centre of the controversy was rented to the Muiriosa housing agency for people with intellectual disabilities.

The Department of the Environment approved an application for a grant of €250,000 for the purchase of the house. However, this money was later given back to the department after the issue over Mr Caffrey's ownership emerged.

Irish Independent

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