Wexford County Council has voted not to take any action against its chief executive Tom Enright following a finding by the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) that he seriously contravened provisions of the Local Government Act.
At a special meeting of the council on Friday to consider the Sipo findings, the members voted to note the report and take no further action. They gave a standing ovation to Mr Enright at the meeting’s conclusion.
The Act required that the councillors considered the Sipo report and what action they should take, if any. The options available in the law include suspension and dismissal.
In a roll-call vote, 30 members voted in favour of the motion. Cllr Pat Barden (Independent) abstained, and three councillors sent apologies for not being present.
The motion was proposed by Oliver Walsh of Fine Gael, and seconded by Fianna Fáil's Cllr Pip Breen. It followed a series of contributions where councillors expressed strong support for the chief executive.
Prior to the meeting Mr Enright circulated a submission in which he revisited issues that had formed the backdrop to the Sipo findings, but also said he regretted the tone he had used in two emails to South East Radio in August 2019.
While he regretted the tone used in the emails, he said, “I do not regret standing up for the council against unfairness by South East Radio.”
Sipo, which is chaired by the retired judge, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, formerly of the Court of Appeal, found that Mr Enright breached the Local Government Act in sending two emails to South East Radio in late August 2019 in which he threatened to withdraw council advertising with the station, during a dispute over the station's coverage of the council.
Radio station complaint
The station has rejected Mr Enright's criticisms of its coverage. The controversy developed after comments were made on South East Radio in March 2019 by local businessman Karl Fitzpatrick, to which Mr Enright took exception. In October of that year Mr Fitzpatrick made a complaint to Sipo, which culminated in last week's report.
Mr Enright told the council meeting he had been advised that he had strong grounds for challenging the Sipo findings, but confirmed that he had no intention of doing so.
At the outset of the meeting the cathaoirleach Barbara Anne Murphy quoted from the report where it was stated that there was no doubting the passion with which Mr Enright worked for the betterment of Wexford county.
Mr Walsh, in proposing the motion, said the Sipo process had been ongoing for a number of years and had been very tough on Mr Enright and his family. He believed “today was the day to draw a line under the whole saga”.
Cllr Green, in seconding the motion, said Mr Enright had brought a “breath of fresh air to the council” and that he fully supported Mr Walsh’s comments.
After the vote the director of services with the council, Eamonn Hore, speaking on behalf of the council management, said Mr Enright had an "inspiring, can-do approach" towards his work for the county.
Mr Enright made a short address in which he said the past 2½ years had been a difficult time for him and his family. He was “overwhelmed and humbled” by the support he had received.