Threat of legal action scuppers amendments
NEWTOWN PLAN MEMBERS BOTHERED BY LETTERS
THE MUCH-DEBATED Newtownmountkennedy Local Area Plan 2008-2014 offered cause for controversy within Wicklow County Council with a number of members refusing to vote for fear of future legal action which could be taken against them.
It emerged at Monday’s meeting that a number of letters from various legal firms had been received by members in relation to the plan in recent weeks, some of which outlining that councillors can face personal actions over decisions made in chamber.
Cllr. Jimmy O’Shaughnessy was particularly bothered by the letters and told his fellow members that he would not be voting on any amendments for this reason.
‘Law agents are saying that we are liable. We would all be very foolish to make any decision today without advice from law agents.
‘This could go on to haunt us. I want to go home to my wife and say that my house is safe. I could end up living in a wigwam,’ he said. ‘You might not get planning permission!’ quipped Cllr. Pat Casey.
Cllr. Pat Vance said that the key issue was that decisions were made in good faith.
‘I’m not afraid to take decisions in good faith. An awful lot of effort and thought has gone into this. We should address these issues.
‘I stand over decisions as I make them in the right frame of mind.’
Cllr. John Byrne asked if the county manager could introduce some form of procedure to protect members of staff and the council.
‘There are allegations but we have to protect the integrity of the Council and its people. We have also had a member of the Council make allegations which were false against a staff member, he said.
‘I am not voting on this amendment. From a legal point of view I think it is better to abstain. There have been so many serious allegations.’
These concerns come after it was alleged that Cllr. Tom Fortune attended a meeting between a vendor and a purchaser regarding a large parcel of land, and additional allegations that a Council official assured the developer that their investment would be secure.
In a statement at Monday’s meeting Cllr. Fortune said that he was not present at the meeting and that the developer had apologised for sending a letter to this effect.
Cllr. Jimmy O’Shaughnessy ‘could end up living in a wigwam’.