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Whistleblower queries roles of Dock directors

SHANE ROSS THE man credited with starting the Mahon tribunal, Michael Smith, has made a formal complaint to the Standards in Public Office Commission, about two members of the board of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA).

Outgoing DDDA chairman Lar Bradshaw and senior independent director Sean FitzPatrick face an examination by the commission on possible conflicts of interest as a result of cross-directorships.

Mr FitzPatrick is the chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, where Mr Bradshaw is also a director. Anglo Irish is a major supplier of finance to developers at the DDDA.

Both Mr FitzPatrick and Mr Bradshaw are shareholders in Anglo. Mr FitzPatrick holds 4.5m Anglo shares (value ?75m) and takes a salary of ?363,000 as chairman of the bank, while Mr Bradshaw owns 120,000 shares (value ?2m) and enjoys ordinary directors' fees of ?72,000.

In his complaint, Mr Smith states: "It is clear that the future of the Docklands seems to be largely in the hands of under 15 development companies. It is clear that Anglo Irish lends money to a considerable number, perhaps a majority of them."

Mr Smith has asked the commission to examine whether the two directors absented themselves from key meetings where planning decisions were made.

In his submission, Mr Smith insists that review of the planning schemes "can obviously benefit Anglo Irish Bank and the developers of schemes it is funding".

Mr Smith also asks whether Mr Bradshaw and Mr FitzPatrick made the necessary declarations of interests when social housing proposals were being discussed.

A spokesman for the commission said they were taking the complaint seriously. It is the first one to come before them covering the wider public service, including semi-state bodies. The spokesman said it was open to any member of the public to lodge such a complaint.

In 2004, Independent TD Tony Gregory asked a question in the Dail about the possible conflict facing the two men, and Environment Minister Dick Roche signalled he had no knowledge of a breach of the DDDA code of conduct.

Mr Smith's submission openly challenges the minister. He maintains that, according to the Act, a director is obliged to declare an interest, leave the room or take no part in the discussion on a subject where he has an interest or even where there is a danger of a negative perception of his participation.

He claims that the minutes of the DDDA record no such behaviour on the part of Mr FitzPatrick, and wants them to find out if the two directors of Anglo Irish Bank have always acted in accordance with the DDDA rules.

Mr Smith specifically selects schemes in Grand Canal Quay and at Riverside Two for examination. He maintains that both schemes benefited from loans from Anglo.

In a separate development, Mr Smith suggests that the DDDA is involved in a joint venture with two developers where the DDDA itself will have the planning-certification power. The scheme, he says, will compromise the board of the DDDA as it could be inclined to give high density zoning if the price they themselves have paid is high.

Mr Smith calls for the resignation of both board members if they have regularly breached the ethics guidelines as spelled out in his complaint.

Last night the Minister Dick Roche told this newspaper: "I have not seen the case put to the commission but, in all my dealings with the two directors, their behaviour has been exemplary."

Neither Mr FitzPatrick nor Mr Bradshaw were returning calls.

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