Councillors secretly filmed by RTÉ found to have contravened ethics laws

Councillors secretly filmed by RTÉ found to have contravened ethics laws
Cllr Joseph Queenan

Two councillors who were featured in an undercover investigation by RTÉ have been found to have contravened ethics laws during the secretly filmed meetings with a fictitious company.

A probe into their conduct was triggered following the broadcast of an RTÉ Investigates Standards in Public Office television programme in December, 2015.

The programme featured secretly recorded meetings with three sitting councillors who believed they were having confidential talks with potential investors in wind farm projects.

In fact, all three men were secretly filmed during individual meetings with an undercover reporter who pretended to be working on behalf of windfarm financiers, a fictitious company ‘Vinst Opportunities’.

The reporter, known only by the alias 'Nina Carlsson' purported to be seeking support to acquire land on which to construct a windfarm.

The Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) has now found proven allegations of misconduct made against two of those councillors while an investigation into a third has been postponed, pending a judicial review.

Following public hearings held in September 2018, SIPO has found against Independent Donegal county councillor John O’Donnell in all three of the allegations made against him.

Cllr John O’Donnell
Cllr John O’Donnell

It said Cllr O’Donnell offered to provide significant assistance to potential wind farm investors in exchange for a financial reward, agreed to work as a member of a local authority on the promise of a future payment by investors and that he failed to uphold the Code of Conduct for Councillors.

Describing his conduct as being at "the highest end of the spectrum," SIPO said he committed these offences intentionally and did not act in good faith.

The Commission also found against Sligo county councillor Joseph Queenan on three of the four allegations made against him.

SIPO ruled that he had recklessly agreed to help the fictitious company in return for a financial reward, failed to uphold the Code of Conduct in his dealings with the undercover reporter and failed to properly declare his interests to the Council.

The ruling says: "The Commission finds that Councillor Queenan did not act in good faith when he recklessly engaged in conduct in contravention of various provisions of the Code of Conduct for Councillors."

However, it said it was not satisfied that he had looked for money to do his job as a councillor.

A third investigation into Monaghan councillor Hugh McElvaney has been halted pending a judicial review by the High Court.

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