Sentencing of former Wicklow clerk guilty of corruption adjourned

Sentencing adjourned after counsel claims Frank O’Toole’s pension may be affected

Mr O’Toole was convicted last December of furnishing a letter to Patrick O’Toole, a Wicklow town-based solicitor and property developer, asserting that development levies of €64,840 had been paid, when this was not the case.

Mr O’Toole was convicted last December of furnishing a letter to Patrick O’Toole, a Wicklow town-based solicitor and property developer, asserting that development levies of €64,840 had been paid, when this was not the case.

 

Sentencing in the case of a former Wicklow town clerk found guilty of corruption has been adjourned at Wicklow Circuit Court after counsel claimed a custodial sentence may affect the official’s pension entitlements.

Judge Gerard Griffin adjourned the sentencing hearing of Frank O’Toole (65) until 2pm Friday, after Coleman Cody SC counsel for Mr O’Toole, said a custodial sentence of more than one year may affect his client’s pension entitlement.

Mr O’Toole was convicted last December of furnishing a letter to Patrick O’Toole, a Wicklow town-based solicitor and property developer, asserting that development levies of €64,840 had been paid, when this was not the case.Mr O’Toole was convicted last December of furnishing a letter to Patrick O’Toole, a Wicklow town-based solicitor and property developer, asserting that development levies of €64,840 had been paid, when this was not the case. The court heard the two men were not related.

Over the course of a four day trial the court was told Frank O’Toole had signed the letter in his capacity as town clerk of Wicklow in 2006.

The letter related to the construction of a mixed commercial/residential development at The Glebe, Wicklow, consisting of 10 apartments and retail space, with a value of €2.75 million.

The former town clerk said he had issued the letter after an approach from Pat O’Toole in which the developer had claimed he had cash flow problems.

The money was to have been ultimately paid from the sales of properties in the development, O’Toole said.

However the council discovered in 2008 that the money had not been paid and ultimately launched an investigation during which the former town clerk made a full statement in 2012 admitting he had issued a false letter.

At a sentence hearing on Friday morning Mr Cody said throughout the trial his client had been held up as “the poster boy for corruption in Wicklow” but in fact neither his client nor any family member of his had personally gained anything, or sought to gain anything, by the issuing of the letter.

Mr Cody said the development levies had eventually been paid by Mr Pat O’Toole, whom he described as “an officer of this court and a solicitor of long standing”, in 2013.

He told the court that before paying, Pat O’Toole had on a number of occasions expressed “outrage” at the suggestion that the money was owed by him.

Evidence of character was given by former Wicklow county manager Blaise Treacy who said he was “flabbergasted” when he heard Frank O’Toole had been charged with corruption.

Mr Treacy said Frank O’Toole had been promoted from the position of town clerk and had served in housing and environment sections of the county council and was a man who was “forthright, a top class official” and “very ethical in all his dealings”.

Further evidence of good character was given by Tony Lyons of Wicklow Lions Club who said Frank O’Toole was a former president of the organisation and had supported causes from handicapped children to the proposed Wicklow hospice.

Prosecuting counsel Paul Murray instructed by State solicitor Rory Benville said it was the DPP’s case that it was a serious matter.

He said the issue of development levies were very important to local authorities and no attempt had been made to tell the council that the monies had not been paid, hen that was the case.

He said it was left to the council to launch its internal investigation when the discrepancy was noticed and €2.75 million had been paid “on foot of the falsifying of the letter”.

He also said the falsification meant the development had been “unauthorised” and the purchasers had been misled into paying over significant sums.