Tuesday 19 November 2019

Under-fire charity boss launches legal challenge to 'fundamentally flawed' regulator report

'I do not believe I have been given a fair hearing,' Ataxia Ireland CEO Barbara Flynn

Barbara Flynn
Barbara Flynn

Cathal McMahon

The CEO of an Irish charity accused of wrongly making payments worth €84,009 to two former trustees has sought a judicial review of the findings of a damning report.

In July the Charities' Regulator released the findings of their investigation into charity Ataxia Ireland.

It was revealed that the charity paid €84,009 to two former trustees Clare and Tim Creedon who founded the charity in 1980 and are the parents of current CEO Barbara Flynn.

Ataxia is a brain condition which affects co-ordination, balance and speech. In severe cases, ataxia can be fatal in childhood or early adulthood.

According to the report the charity had weak internal financial controls and Ms Flynn’s pension contribution of €38,500 was paid from funds rather than deducted from her salary.

Ms Flynn has remained tight-lipped on the findings for the last two months but this morning she hit back at the regulator and revealed that she has instructed her solicitors, in a personal capacity, to apply to the High Court seeking a judicial review of the report.

She said she rejected the key findings and described it as "fundamentally flawed".

She said any suggestion she had not adequately safeguarded the interests of Ataxia Ireland was "an unjust attack on her good reputation and professional standing".

The CEO argued that the inspectors' report failed to give a balanced view of the operations of the charity during her 12 years as CEO, arguing that they should have taken account of her "success in securing substantial HSE funding for the services the charity provides to ataxia sufferers and the launch of the successful Ataxia Clinic at Tallaght Hospital".

Referring to payments to her parents Claire and Tim Creedon Ms Flynn claimed the report failed to give "due weight" to statements from committee members who she claims said that they knew of payments to her parents.

Ms Flynn said the pair initially worked for the charity on an entirely voluntary basis for almost 25 years and 13 years respectively.

The statement claimed committee members gave evidence that the payments to the founders were known to them and seen as extremely modest relative to their enormous work. The payments had from 2012 amounted to about €82.50 per week in Clare’s case and €150 per week in Tim’s case.

“These payments were fully transparent, went through payroll, were accounted for in the financial statements which in turn were signed off by the Ataxia Ireland chairperson, treasurer and auditors each year,’’ Ms Flynn said.

She accused inspectors of ignoring evidence that all the expenses incurred by the charity were legitimate. She claimed there was no misappropriation of funds.

“I co-operated fully with the inspectors as they acknowledge. But I do not believe I have been given a fair hearing. That is why I have now instructed PC Moore Solicitors to go to the High Court to challenge the report’s findings by way of judicial review and to vindicate my reputation.

“The findings of the report are naturally of great personal concern to me. But of greater concern is the on-going damage that is being done to the charity and the essential services that it provides to members. As a result of this investigation, the charity’s funding has been impacted and it is rapidly running out of resources.

“It is disheartening to see the damage that has been done to public confidence in the charity that my family, the staff and members have worked so hard to build over almost 40 years and on which so many ataxia sufferers in Ireland rely for support.’’

A spokesman for the Charities Regulator said they had no comment on Ms Flynn's statement

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