No basis found to sustain allegations by De Búrca
ANNUAL REPORT STANDARDS IN PUBLIC OFFICE COMMISSION
THE STANDARDS in Public Office Commission has found no basis to sustain allegations made by Senator Deirdre de Búrca about Deputy Billy Timmins, his brother Cllr. Edward Timmins, and his parliamentary secretary, Cllr. Vincent Blake.
It has also ruled that a conflict of evidence which arose when following up a subsequent complaint by Cllrs. Timmins and Blake about Senator de Búrca meant that the issue could not be resolved, and accordingly was without a basis on which a full investigation could be based.
The Commission’s recentlypublished report for 2007 tells how two letters were received from the County Manager and the Cathaoirleach of the County Council concerning complaints made to the Council’s Ethics Registrar about alleged contraventions of the Local Government Act by serving and former councillors.
Former Councillor and now Senator de Búrca had complained about the alleged fail- ure by Cllr. Edward Timmins and Deputy Billy Timmins to disclose an interest in familyowned land at Bawnogue, near Baltinglass, and about Cllr. Blake’s participation in a land disposal issue at a County Council meeting in January 2007, regarding a disposal notice of the Council’s interest in 375 square metres of land to a number of people including Deputy Timmins. The complaint referred to Cllr. Blake’s alleged failure to disclose the interest of his employment as Parliamentary Assistant to Deputy Timmins, and his failure to excuse himself from the meeting when the vote was being taken.
Meanwhile, Cllrs Timmins and Blake complained about Senator de Búrca. These complaints concerned a failure to make declarations for the periods January to June 2004 and 2005/2006; a ‘factually incorrect statement’ made by then Cllr. de Búrca in correspondence with the County Secretary; and her role in a libel action taken against East Coast FM, stemming from a press release issued by her.
Cllr. Blake also complained about fellow Councillor Tommy Cullen’s failure to make declarations for the period 2005/2006, and a ‘factually incorrect statement’ made by Cllr. Cullen in correspondence with the County Secretary.
In the case of the complaint against the Timmins brothers, the Commission noted that both supplied letters from their solicitor to state they did not acquire any interest in the relevant lands until 2006. Their grandfather had first owned the land, and it had then passed into the ownership first of their father, and then of their mother. The Standards Commission considered that in view of this, there was no basis on which to sustain the complaints.
In considering the complaint against Cllr. Blake, the Commision considered that the interest was so remote or insignificant as not to fall within the scope of a beneficial interest as defined in the Local Government Act.
In relation to the complaints against Senator de Búrca and Cllr. Cullen, the Commission noted that the declarations of interest referred to had subsequently been furnished. It further noted that there appeared to be a conflict of evidence as to whether they had previously been furnished, as claimed by both de Búrca and Cullen. In those circumstances, the Commission decided there was no basis on which to initiate an investigation into the complaints.
The Commission also decided there was no basis on which to initiate an investigation under the Ethics Act into the complaints concerning the alleged factually incorrect statements concerning Senator de Búrca’s actions in regard to East Coast FM.
The Commission’s decisions were announced to the County Manager, for relay to those involved. Meanwhile, the Commission also advised the County Manager of its view that the complaints should have been properly resolved within the County Council, without the necessity of recourse to the Standards Commission. The County