Saturday 18 November 2017

Sacked staff at Console still waiting to get paid

Liquidator opposes request from disgraced Kelly's sister for charity to foot her legal fees

Paul Kelly, former chief of Console. Photo: Robbie Reynolds
Paul Kelly, former chief of Console. Photo: Robbie Reynolds
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Counsellors who worked for disgraced Console boss Paul Kelly are still waiting to get paid after his financial misspending caused the suicide bereavement organisation to be wound up.

According to court documents filed last week, the liquidator who is winding up the charity is still trying to find money for counsellors "who were assisting the most vulnerable users of the service" but were not paid.

The liquidator, Tom Murray, was opposing a request from Kelly's sister that the charity should pick up the tab for her legal costs.

According to his affidavit to the High Court, Mr Murray is dropping legal proceedings against Joan Burke McKenna, who was listed as a director of the charity, because he is satisfied that she had "no hand, act or part" in running it. However, he suggested that Console simply didn't have the money to pay her legal fees.

Ms McKenna was registered as one of five directors of Console and was named in High Court proceedings taken by the liquidator and the interim chief executive, David Hall, to effectively freeze the charity's accounts.

She later said she had no involvement in the charity and produced a handwriting expert to confirm her signature had been forged on documents submitted to the Companies Registration Office.

In his affidavit, Mr Murray said Ms McKenna "engaged fully" with the liquidator, who made "absolutely no criticism of her in that regard. In that she has delivered two affidavits in support of her assertion that she had no hand, act or part in the running of the charity."

In contrast, he appears to have received little help from Kelly or his wife, Patricia, who "neither confirmed or denied Ms McKenna's involvement" in Console".

Read More: Disgraced charity boss refuses to return award

The liquidator offered to drop the legal proceedings against Ms McKenna, with no order on costs, but she "refused the offer" and is seeking her costs from the charity.

Mr Murray said: "The charity is insolvent and I am currently working to try and pay creditors a dividend, including for the most part counsellors who were assisting the most vulnerable users of the service, who were not paid by the charity."

He said it was "rather unfortunate" that the running of the charity had led to this situation, "and as matters currently stand, I am working towards easing the fall-out in so far as I can".

Mr Murray pointed out that Mr Hall and others worked free to help protect the charity's services. The High Court is expected to decide on the costs on Tuesday.

The liquidator is expected to complete his report on winding up the charity and paying off creditors in the coming months. He has sold two company cars used by the Kellys and a property on the Navan Road in Dublin. However, it is not known whether he has recovered any other assets.

Before he stood down as interim chief executive, Mr Hall was investigating whether the Kellys used the charity's cash to buy a €40,000 show-jumping horse for their daughter. The horse and its horsebox were stolen from stables in Longford soon after the mis-spending scandal broke in June and remain missing.

The HSE audit into the charity's finances found evidence of lavish spending on Console credit cards held by Kelly, his wife and son. The audit showed spending of almost €465,000 on 11 of Console's 20 credit cards between 2012 and 2014. The purchases included foreign holidays, designer clothing and restaurant bills.

The HSE referred its audit findings to the Garda fraud bureau last February, while Mr Hall and Mr Murray made a statement on their findings to gardai in July. However, the only active investigation into the charity is being conducted by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement for alleged breaches of company law.

Mr Hall questioned why gardai were not investigating. "The alleged behaviour that I found and the HSE found is more than breaches of company law, it is a matter for the gardai," he said.

"The collateral damage here is the charitable sector. Every time these scandals erupt, there is a dramatic impact on the charitable sector."

Sunday Independent

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