A member of staff in the planning section has been suspended on full pay for the past seven months as an in-depth garda investigation is continuing into the irregularity allegations.
Yesterday a meeting of the council in Dungarvan was asked by Cllr Kevin Wilkinson if in fact a private investigator has now been hired by the local authority to assist in the investigation.
He and a colleague are demanding to know if the elected members are being “watched’’ and if their homes are being put under continuous surveillance.
Cllr Wilkinson said: “This is a very sinister twist, and I want to know if the county council has hired the services of such an investigator.”
Another Fianna Fáil member, Cllr Tom Cronin, insisted a private investigator has been called in. “Who has hired him, what is his role in the investigation? These are the questions I want answered,’’ he said.
Cllr Cronin asked if the private investigator will now be parked outside the homes of the elected councillors, watching their every move. “Who is watching us, where is this person coming from,’’ asked Cllr Kieran O’Ryan (FF).
County manager Ray O’Dwyer, who said he will not be making any public statements on the matter until the investigation has been completed, said the members could be assured the council had not employed any private investigator to “investigate anything’’ and has no plans to do so.
He refused to respond to further queries about the suspension of a member of staff within the planning department. “I am not saying another word until the investigation is completed,” he added.
Cllr Wilkinson said he is “very reassured’’ that no private investigator has been called in by the council, but in a stinging attack on the FF man, Labour’s Cllr Billy Kyne, said he was “appalled’’ that the question had been asked in the public way, that it had been by Cllr Wilkinson.
“If he (Cllr Wilkinson) wanted to know what the position was then he should have taken it up privately with the manager,’’ Cllr Kyne added.
Cllr Damien Geoghegan (FG) said that as the one who had asked the question first day about planning irregularities he found it “laughable’’ for councillors to be talking about private investigators.