Developer claims complaint probe ‘unacceptable’

A PROPERTY developer who has lodged a complaint against three senior county council officials has insisted it is not acceptable for members of the same local authority to conduct an internal investigation.

Businessman Damien Smyth has submitted the complaint to Kerry County Council’s ethics registrar, Gerard O’Brien, in relation to a failed 2007 planning application when he sought approval to develop a retail warehouse park on the outskirts of Tralee town.

Mr Smyth has alleged that councillors may not have been provided with full information prior to rejecting an application to rezone the land and adjust the Tralee local area plan.

The council vote on the issue was locked at 12-12, and the rezoning motion was eventually defeated on the casting vote of the then chairman Cllr Ted Fitzgerald.

The Tralee developer has now lodged a formal complaint against the council’s senior planning officer Tom Sheehy, Kerry county manager Tom Curran and former Kerry manager Martin Riordan, who is now the Cork county manager.

Mr Smyth said he wanted to develop a retail warehouse park on a 13-acre site, just off the main Tralee-Killarney road, on a phased basis, and negotiations were at an advanced stage with British DIY retail giant B&Q who were targeted as the anchor tenant.

The businessman claimed yesterday he was informed, if it was allowed to proceed, the development would have a negative impact on businesses in Tralee town centre and would cause traffic congestion.

But he pointed out that planning permission was later granted by the council for an even more elaborate retail park immediately across the road from his site. That decision was later overturned by An Bord Pleanála.

Kerry County Council has confirmed that an internal investigation has been launched following a complaint from a member of the public. It is understood details of a complaint against Tom Curran have been submitted to Mayor of Kerry, Cllr Pat Leahy, to investigate, and Mr Curran has been asked to investigate the complaint against Tom Sheehy. The council informed Mr Smyth that it is not in a position to investigate a complaint against Martin Riordan as he is no longer employed by the local authority in Kerry.

A spokesman for the council said it would be inappropriate to make any further comment while the case is ongoing, but he stressed the fact an investigation had been launched was not an indication or acceptance of any wrongdoing.

Mr Smyth, meanwhile, has asked for the matter to be referred to the Standards in Public Office Commission rather than the council conducting its own internal investigation.

“Kerry County Council officials should not be asked to investigate a complaint against their own colleagues. This is an absolute joke, a waste of time and energy,” he said.

“It is just not on to have council officials investigating other officials on the same authority. It should all be referred to Dublin to be investigated,” Mr Smyth added.

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