Ex-FG councillor guilty of corruption

Fri, May 18, 2012, 01:00

A former Waterford Fine Gael town councillor has been found guilty of accepting corrupt payments relating to the proposed rezoning of 32 hectares of land near Dungarvan in Co Waterford six years ago.

Fred Forsey (43) of Coolagh Road, Abbeyside, Dungarvan, had denied receiving corrupt payments of €60,000, €10,000 and €10,000 on dates in August, October and December 2006 as inducements or rewards in relation to a proposed development near Dungarvan while a member of Dungarvan Town Council.

Today at Waterford Circuit Criminal Court, a jury of eight men and four women unanimously found him guilty of six counts after just under 2 1/2 hours of deliberation.

Judge Gerard Griffin remanded Forsey, who started to tremble and cry when the verdict was read out, on bail to appear next Thursday for sentencing.

The background to the case relates to a planning application by a property developer and a business associate for a 32-hectare site near Dungarvan that was refused planning permission on October 25th, 2006, as the land was zoned as agricultural and needed to be rezoned as commercial/residential for the proposal to go ahead.

Prosecution counsel Denis Vaughan Buckley SC yesterday urged the jury to use their common sense as he reminded them of how Mr Forsey’s reply that there was “no free meal” when he was questioned by the Garda about the fact that the property developer who gave him the €80,000 was “a tough and hard businessman”.

And he reminded them of evidence from Mr Forsey’s former wife, Jenny, that her husband had remarked to her while walking home from the Moorings pub in Dungarvan in the summer of 2006, where he had a 15-minute conversation with the developer, that he thought he would “get in with him”.

Mr Vaughan Buckley also pointed out that Mr Forsey had received a total of €80,000 from the developer at a time when he was a member of Dungarvan Town Council and he had met council officials, as well as members of Waterford County Council, and had lobbied them to vote for rezoning to allow the development proceed.

Ms Forsey had said her former husband never mentioned the money was a loan and there was no question of her husband being able to repay the cash as they had no money, said Mr Vaughan Buckley, before addressing the issue of a loan document from the developer dated August 26th, 2006, found in his solicitor’s office.

It was the State’s case that although the document made out to Mr Forsey was dated August 20th, 2006, a computer expert found that it had been created on January 9th, 2007, which was after Ms Forsey had threatened in December 2006 to go the Garda when Mr Forsey failed to repay €10,000 she had lent him.

Defence counsel John Phelan SC warned the jury against jumping to conclusions about the loan document. The State had argued that it was not created until January 2007, but just because it was downloaded on to the company’s computer on that date did not mean that it was not drafted in August 2006, as stated by Mr Forsey.

He also urged the jury to treat Ms Forsey’s evidence with caution, as “hell had not fury like a woman scorned”, and she wanted revenge after discovering that Mr Forsey had been having an affair. He told the jury she was happy to avail of the money given by the developer until “all holy hell broke out” and their marriage broke up.

Mr Phelan also told the jury that they should not bring any prejudice into the jury room over the fact that Mr Forsey had split up from his wife in such acrimonious circumstances. “These things happen; he is not charged with the break-up of his marriage; he is not charged with taking a new partner,” he said.

Mr Phelan also pointed out that Mr Forsey, a member of Dungarvan Town Council, in lobbying officials and members of Waterford County Council to rezone the land, was simply trying to get jobs into Dungarvan. “He was doing the job that politicians were doing all over the country,” he said.