11 May 2007
FF councillor breached ethics in family land rezoning bid
By Donal Hickey
A LEADING hotelier and Fianna Fáil councillor tried to win the support of fellow councillors for the rezoning of his family property, according to the Standards in Public Office Commission, which described the incident as a “serious matter”.
The commission concluded that Patrick O’Donoghue, managing director of the Gleneagle Hotel, Killarney, and a member of Killarney Town Council, breached sections of the ethics legislation arising from a proposal to rezone the 20-acre Gleneagle property.
A report of an investigation by the commission into Mr O’Donoghue’s conduct, published yesterday, is to be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
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Mr O’Donoghue, also a director of Fáilte Ireland, has strongly denied trying to influence other councillors to vote for the rezoning.
Also investigated in relation to the rezoning was Mayor Sheila Casey, a Fine Gael member of Killarney Town Council, and an employee of the Gleneagle group.
However, the commission is not taking any further action against her, saying it was “not satisfied on the evidence before it that she had actual knowledge that she had, as an employee of the O’Donoghue family, a beneficial interest in the motion to rezone the lands”. The probe arose from a motion which came before Killarney Town Council to rezone the O’Donoghue’s property, which includes the Gleneagle and Brehon Hotels, the National Events Centre (INEC) and a riverside pitch and putt course to town centre status.
The motion was passed at a council meeting, while Mr O’Donoghue and Ms Casey were both present, on March 6, 2006. Ms Casey voted for the motion, but Mr O’Donoghue abstained.
The commission found Mr O’Donoghue was in breach of the code of conduct for councilors, under the Local Government Act, by seeking the support of councilors for the motion and trying to influence their decision on it.
“The commission is satisfied these contraventions were committed intentionally and were, in all the circumstances, a serious matter,” the report stated.
It also found Mr O’Donoghue disregarded the code of conduct by not disclosing his interest in the Gleneagle property and by failing to withdraw from the meeting when the motion was being discussed.
The investigation arose from complaints by Killarney Town Council manager Tom Curran, who is acting county manager for Kerry.