Coun­cil­lor fac­ing fresh ethics in­quiry

Bray People - - News -

WICK­LOW County Coun­cil’s ethics com­mit­tee has been or­dered by the High Court to carry out a fresh in­quiry into com­plaints that Cllr. Fachtna Whit­tle breached ethics leg­is­la­tion.

Cllr. Whit­tle, who is also a so­lic­i­tor, is ac­cused by Green Party Se­na­tor Deirdre de Burca of propos­ing and vot­ing for the re­zon­ing of land without dis­clos­ing that the land be­longed to an owner his law firm had rep­re­sented.

On Wed­nes­day, Jus­tice John Hedi­gan ruled that the ethics com­mit­tee hadn’t dealt with the right ques­tions while re­view­ing the case.

In June of 2005 the com­mit­tee re­leased its find­ings, mainly that while Cllr. Whit­tle had been ‘un­wise to pro­pose the mo­tion he did’ he had no ‘ben­e­fi­cial or pe­cu­niary in­ter­est’ and the com­plaint was ‘un­jus­ti­fied’.

Jus­tice Hedi­gan has now quashed that re­port and has di­rected the Coun­cil to re­view the mat­ter. He felt that if the Coun­cil had prop­erly con­strued the pro­vi­sions of the lo­cal gov­ern­ment act 2001 re­lat­ing to eth­i­cal frame­works then the ethics com­mit­tee wouldn’t have reached the con­clu­sion it did. Se­na­tor de Burca had ar­gued that the re­port failed to ask did Cllr. Whit­tle have a ben­e­fi­cial in­ter­est, within the mean­ing of sec­tion 176.2 of the 2001 act, when propos­ing the re­zon­ing of lands at Bal­ly­lusk, Ash­ford to ex­tend a quarry there. She felt he had breached the ethics pro­vi­sion by fail­ing to dis­close that his le­gal firm was act­ing for the quarry owner in le­gal pro­ceed­ings try­ing to de­ter­mine the plan­ning sta­tus of the site. Cllr. Whit­tle ar­gued that even if the re­zon­ing had been adopted it wouldn’t have had an af­fect on those pro­ceed­ings, and that he was only aware of the pro­ceed­ings in­volv­ing the landowner in a very ‘gen­eral way’.

Judge Hedi­gan ruled that the coun­cil had failed to con­sider the con­cept of a deemed ben­e­fi­cial in­ter­est and had ‘made a se­ri­ous er­ror of law’. The ethics com­mit­tee must now carry out a sec­ond in­ves­ti­ga­tion un­der which coun­cil­lors pro­vide de­tails of de­clar­able in­ter­ests as part of the an­nual dec­la­ra­tion.

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