Councillor guilty of expense fraud
A town councillor has been fined €500 after he pleaded guilty to fraudulently claiming overnight expenses for a conference on water management which he did not attend.
Cllr Pat Melia (51), of Ard na Gréine, Macroom, a member of Macroom Town Council, pleaded guilty to the sole charge when he appeared before Macroom District Court today.
An independent member of the council, he was charged with making gain by causing a loss by deception to Macroom Town Council between April 13th and April 27th, 2012.
Insp Gerry Lacey told he court that Melia travelled to Galway Bay Hotel to attend a conference on water reform in Ireland after being registered to attend on behalf of Macroom Town Council.
He signed in at the conference on the night of April 13th but travelled back to Macroom and a month later submitted an expense claim to Macroom Town Council for mileage and subsistence of €551.
Melia was entitled to expenses for mileage and a portion of subsistence but he claimed €218 for two overnights which he was not entitled to claim, said Insp Lacey.
Melia’s solicitor, Sean Cahill, said the offence was not premeditated, and that Melia had travelled to Galway intending to attend the conference and stay over after signing in at the conference.
However the Labour Party annual conference was on in Galway at the time. He found it difficult to obtain accommodation and thought initially of sleeping in his car.
Instead he travelled back to Macroom, intending to return to Galway the next day, but a domestic matter arose and he was unable to do so. He later claimed for two overnights which he was not entitled to.
Judge James McNulty said the sum was relatively insignificant but the consequences were significant for Melia, particularly in terms of having a conviction for theft against his name.
He did not believe it was an appropriate case for a custodial sentence, given that Melia had immediately admitted the offence and co-operated fully with gardaí when arrested.
He fined Melia - a father of two young children under three years - €500 and gave him three months to pay.
Melia was elected to Macroom Town Council in 2009 for Fianna Fáil but resigned from the party five months ago and now sits on the council as an Independent.