No ethics breach found over payment of councillors' college fees
A COUNTY councillor should repay €910 in repeat exam fees paid for by Dún Laoghaire-Rath- down County Council, an investigation by the council into education payments to two councillors has found.
However, the council’s report regarding the propriety of the councillors’ receiving third-level education payments of almost €20,000 between them found they had not breached ethics standards.
The investigation and subsequent report into the payments received by councillors Cormac Devlin and Barry Ward was launched after a complaint that they breached Section 168 of the Local Government Act, 2001.
The complaint alleged Mr Ward’s master’s in economic policy at Trinity College Dublin had “no relevance” to his role and work as a county councillor and that he had accepted payments of €10,085 which had not gone through proper procedure because they had not been approved by council members.
Similarly, the complaint said six payments made on behalf of Mr Devlin totalling €9,200 for a BA in public administration had not gone through proper procedure.
Referring to the €910 Mr Devlin received in fees for two repeat exams, the complaint said it was “completely unreasonable that any public body should pay repeat fees in any circumstance”.
However, the report found neither councillor had breached legislation, noting it was the responsibility of council administrators to ensure payments for training and education went through proper procedure. Both councillors had approached county manager Owen Keegan, who told them the payment of their course fees from the education and training budget was possible.
It found that, in both cases, Mr Keegan had “overlooked” the need to seek council approval but that at last October’s council meeting resolutions approving the payments were retrospectively passed by the council.
However, the report noted that Mr Devlin’s repeat exam fees were “considered unreasonable” for the council to cover. It recommended that he be asked to recoup the fees within a reasonable time frame.
Regarding a separate complaint brought against Mr Keegan in relation to his actions, the cathaoirleach, John Bailey, found the county manager had not breached Section 168 of the Act and needed no further investigation.
Shane Hogan, a public servant and Labour Party member, who brought the complaint last October, described the council’s report as “whitewash” and said he would be making a formal complaint to the Standards in Public Office Commission.