Longford County Manager Tim Caffrey hiked up the asking price for his house by €14,000 to €259,000 – just days after a voluntary housing body had submitted paperwork seeking a grant for the same amount.
His auctioneer has publicly stated that he raised the price of the four-bedroom house at Mr Caffrey's request from €245,000 to €259,000 on July 12 last.
But just over a week earlier, on July 4, a voluntary housing body had submitted documentation to Longford County Council seeking a state grant of €259,000 to buy the house.
Muiriosa Foundation chief executive Brendan Broderick said it had based this estimate on the €245,000 asking price of the house at the time, plus the cost of legal fees, a fire safety survey and loan finance.
"That came to €259,000. But we had a note saying 'please note that the purchase price is the asking price of the estate agent. Given current market conditions, there is probably some scope for a reduction in this price'," he said.
Phil Hogan's Environment department was sent on the documentation by the council. His officials approved a €250,000 grant to buy Mr Caffrey's house in Clondra, a village around 8km outside Longford town. But the deal fell through after the Muiriosa Foundation said it was no longer suitable for two people with intellectual disabilities due to a change in their family circumstances.
Mr Caffrey has said he had immediately declared his ownership of the house when the foundation actually applied for the grant to purchase the house. He has also has insisted he had no 'direct involvement' in the grant process.
Mr Broderick said his foundation had not been aware of the fact that Mr Caffrey had increased the asking price of his house from €245,000 to €259,000 after they submitted their grant application documents to the council.
But he had got his own valuation report which had valued Mr Caffrey's house at €110,000 which was less than half the €250,000 price put on it by Longford County Council's independent valuation report.
Mr Broderick said the foundation had been planning to make an offer based on the €110,000 valuation – and would have returned any surplus funds to the Department of the Environment.
"We knew that in the heel of the hunt, whatever we would be bidding would reflect our independent valuation," he said.
Longford councillors have asked the political standards watchdog to investigate the matter.
But the political standards watchdog, the Standards in Public Office Commission, is set to tell councillors that they will have to ask for a report into the matter from their own ethics registrar before it will launch any investigation of its own.
A spokesman for the commission said this was the standard process – and had taken place in other previous cases involving complaints about council employees.
In response to questions from the Irish Independent, Longford County Council re-issued Mr Caffrey's statement from earlier in the week where he said the process of awarding the €250,000 grant to buy his house was "totally transparent and complied not only with the letter of the relevant regulations but also with the sprit of those regulations".