Wednesday 17 January 2018

Angry councillors refuse to fund boss's retirement bash

Retiring county manager Hubert Kearns
Retiring county manager Hubert Kearns

Greg Harkin

HARD-pressed council staff have been asked to pay for a going away party for a county manager who is retiring with a €270,000 lump sum.

Hubert Kearns, outgoing boss of Sligo County Council and the town's Borough Council, will also pocket a pension of €68,000 per year.

Eleven of the 12 borough councillors say they will not attend this Friday's event.

Some of them are protesting at the failure of Mr Kearns to convene meetings for the past two months because of an ongoing row over alleged bullying.

In a memo yesterday, staff who want to attend the reception at Sligo's Clarion Hotel were asked by officials to confirm their attendance and cough up €20 each for food and a present.

Drinks and a buffet will be laid on at the party event for the €132,000-a-year executive who last year responded to the news that Spain's prime minister earns €40,000 less than him by saying: "I am surprised he earns so little."

Some members of council staff say they will also boycott the party.

"We've had pay cuts, more taxes and a recruitment embargo, which means we are doing more for less, so coming up with cash for Mr Kearns's party is out of the question," one told the Irish Independent.

Another staff member told us: "I'm sure Mr Kearns could afford to pay for it himself so I won't be making any donation."

In his memo to staff, John Moran, from the council's corporate services department, said the function was to mark Mr Kearns's 17 years as county manager and 40 years in public service.

Cllr David Cawley (Fine Gael) is among those refusing to attend the event. He is still "furious" that Mr Kearns failed to officially give the go-ahead for borough council meetings for the past two months.


Meetings had resumed in June after staff, including Mr Kearns, walked out of the March monthly meeting amid claims that they were being bullied by independent councillor Declan Bree.

The council spent more than €50,000 hiring HR consultant Declan Naughton to monitor meetings.

Mr Cawley said: "(Since June) meetings have stopped since then without any explanation whatsoever.

"I won't be going this Friday and I will not be sending my apologies either."

Mr Bree, who has always denied allegations of bullying, wrote to Labour Party Mayor Marcella McGarry last night protesting at her decision to host a reception.

"It would be an affront to the elected representatives and to the people of Sligo if the mayor were to host a civic reception for the county manager or to attend his retirement function."

He added: "I certainly won't be throwing a fiver into the collection kitty."

The council, the mayor and Mr Kearns all refused to comment.

Irish Independent

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