Friday 28 October 2016

Scale of Paul Kelly's betrayal goes beyond mere finances

Pat O'Connell

Published 09/07/2016 | 02:30

Console's interim CEO David Hall Photo: Colm Mahady
Console's interim CEO David Hall Photo: Colm Mahady

Sitting in a secure lock-up lie 20 boxes of documents, a Dell laptop and a number of CDs and DVDs that may one day reveal the true extent of Paul, Patricia and Tim Kelly's spending at Console.

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The interim CEO of Console, David Hall, has said that the documents had not yet been examined as efforts have concentrated on ensuring the survival of the services offered by the charity - if not the charity itself.

"They are in a secure room in a secure location," he told the Irish Independent. "They haven't been looked at... we don't know what's in there."

Although the contents of the documents are unknown, it is hoped that they may stretch back prior to 2012 and the period covered by the HSE's audit.

The importance of these documents to the investigations by gardaí and the Office of Corporate Enforcement is likely to be significant.

Original credit card receipts, chequebook stubs (25 chequebooks were found) and spending records will be needed in the event that charges arise.

The documents may also fill in many of the blanks that were found in the accounts filed (and not filed) by Console.

In interviews, Paul Kelly said that Console was originally set up in 2002 but the first accounts were filed in 2006. And no figures were contained in any of the accounts filed before 2009.

So far this week, Paul Kelly has made himself unavailable to the High Court and the interim CEO for questioning. Instead, he is in the mental-health wing of a hospital in Dublin.

Bar a brief discharge on Monday night to meet legal representatives after the discovery of the document cache in Naas, the 58-year-old has completely withdrawn from the storm now gripping the charity.

The colleagues and family members he has betrayed have been left to pick up the pieces.

The total breakdown of the monies spent by the three members of the Kelly family, or taken in payments since 2012, now stands at almost €1.2m.

Spending on the family's credit cards between 2012 and 2014 was established by the HSE audit at nearly €464,000.

Over the same period, Paul Kelly received untaxed and secret consultancy payments of €218,586 and a fully expensed 2009 Mercedes CLS, costing €30,600. Ms Kelly received salary payments of €67,149 and a fully expensed 2010 Audi Q5, costing €57,000.

Tim Kelly received a salary of €118,344 from 2012 to 2014.

Figures revealed by affidavits lodged in court this week add credit card spending of €202,000 for the three members of the family in 2015.

Shockingly, at the time that the interim CEO was appointed, it emerged that Kelly hadn't been paying the bill for Console's freephone Helpline number and that €19,000 was now owed. Hundreds of thousands of euro are owed to staff.

The scale of Kelly's betrayal of the charity that he received numerous awards for founding is breathtaking. But that betrayal was not just financial.

The most personal of these betrayals involved three women. The first is that of his 23-year-old sister Sharon, who he lost to suicide in 1995.

The second is that of his intensely private sister, Joan McKenna, who was dragged before the High Court this week to contest Console company documents which identified her as a director - of which she said she had no knowledge.

And the third is that of Sr Margaret Joyce, a completely innocent former employee, in whose name he acquired two credit cards that were used to rack up spending of €128,169.

The betrayal of his sister's memory and the betrayal of the fight against suicide that he waged in her name are perhaps the most sickening aspect.

In an interview given in 2014, Kelly spoke of Sharon's death being the catalyst for his decision to set up Console.

"Console was born out of my own grief and loss," he said. "After Sharon died, my mother and father gave up on life, they were crushed."

What Kelly didn't mention in that interview was that the charity had been forced to reduce the number of helplines it ran from six to two while his lavish spending gathered pace.

All those who fundraised for or contributed to Console will now wonder if their money ever reached the charity's counselling and helpline services. Or whether Kelly, his wife Patricia and their son Tim diverted it to purchase designer clothes or fund their trips abroad.

And then there will be the inevitable and justified outrage felt by bereaved families.

Could any of it have happened differently or been avoided? The simple answer is yes - but the bureaucracy and lack of accountability associated with the running of charities in this country made this an accident waiting to happen.

The HSE unquestioningly poured taxpayers' money to the tune of roughly €70,000 a month into the charity.

This year alone, it allocated Console more than €321,000 in funding, despite its own audit team and Government ministers being aware of the serious financial irregularities within the organisation.

On top of that, former Health Minister James Reilly admitted this week that he had been approached in 2013 about Mr Kelly by former Fine Gael parliamentary assistant Tommy Morris, who suggested that state funding for Console should be suspended.

Had a closer eye been paid to who was running the charity, then this would not and should not have happened.

Kelly's chequered history is by now well documented.

In June 1983, he ended up in Dublin District Court after he had been caught pretending to be a doctor. He admitted the offence and was given the benefit of the Probation Act.

According to reports, he had responded to a newspaper advertisement for the post. He told the interviewing doctor that he was educated at Trinity College and was told to turn up for work the following Monday.

When approached for his qualifications, he used the registration number of another doctor with the same name. The ruse lasted three weeks.

In 1989, he founded a charity, Christian Development Services (CDS), which became embroiled in a controversy very similar to that engulfing Console.

CDS provided low-cost counselling for those unable to afford private treatment, but it closed after a financial scandal prompted staff to oust Kelly.

The charity had failed to pay tax or PRSI and owed the Revenue Commissioners £100,000 when it went out of business. The company was dissolved in 1993.

So could this happen again? Sadly, it probably already is.

Irish Independent

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