CRC’s appointment process turned spotlight on Brian Conlon

HSE said clinic’s process to appoint chief executive ‘highly irregular’

Brian Conlon’s statement did not make any reference to what, if anything, he knew about top-up payments to others. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Brian Conlon’s statement did not make any reference to what, if anything, he knew about top-up payments to others. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Tue, Dec 10, 2013, 01:01

Brian Conlon’s position as chief executive of the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) initially came under the spotlight because of the process that led to his appointment.

He was chief executive of the Mater hospital in Dublin before he took over the running of the CRC last summer, succeeding Paul Kiely, who had held the position for about 25 years.

Mr Conlon had been a member of the CRC board and this, along with the organisation’s failure to hold an open competition for the position of chief executive, led to strong criticism from the Health Service Executive about the process.

In a letter to CRC chairman James Nugent a month ago, HSE regional director for performance and integration Angela Fitzgerald said: “It must be said that the consideration of a former board member’s application within an internal process is highly irregular.”

Ms Fitzgerald had argued in a previous letter to Mr Nugent in September that the filling of the chief executive position without an external competition was contrary to the requirements of the Commission for Public Service Appointments.


Selection process
In a statement yesterday Mr Conlon said he had been offered the position of CRC chief executive last July following a selection process conducted by the organisation’s board.

While Mr Conlon in his statement referred to his appointment as chief executive, he did not refer to his period on the CRC board and what, if anything, he knew about top-up payments to other individuals.

He also made no comment about the background to his appointment as CRC chief executive.

Last week The Irish Times published details of official correspondence which revealed that since last spring there was a serious row between the HSE and the CRC board over the appointment of a new chief executive.

The HSE served an unprecedented two formal warnings on the CRC over the summer and at one stage said it was “minded” to suspend nearly €250,000 in funding.

At the heart of the dispute was a contention by the HSE that the CRC had moved to appoint a new chief executive without its approval despite written and verbal communications.

While the official Government position is that the CRC is a public-service organisation and its staff are public servants, it seems the board insisted on its independence.


Independent company
On July 19th last Mr Nugent told the HSE the CRC was an independent company of 61 years’ standing and the appointment of a chief executive was one of the board’s most fundamental and important decisions.

“We are empowered by the the terms of our memorandum and articles of association to make this appointment and we do not believe that any other agreements or arrangements can or should be able to override this essential right and obligation.”

Mr Nugent said the board had taken serious consideration of the much reduced skill sets in the clinic arising from the departure of senior staff in areas such as financial control, human resources, information technology and quality and risk.

He said Mr Conlon brought these qualities to the CRC in addition to being a very experienced professional in the healthcare business.

“He was available immediately and qualified to apply for the post via the internal recruitment process as a result of his board membership.”

Last night, it emerged that Mr Conlon has decided not to appear before a meeting of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee tomorrow.

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