Sunday 23 March 2008

Gardaí speak to councillors over planning claim

GARDAÍ INVESTIGATING suspected planning irregularities have been interviewing members of Waterford County Council.

A number of councillors have been informally spoken to by gardaí in recent days, and others are expected to speak to gardaí in coming days.

The investigation relates to a planning application that was submitted to the council for approval.

Gardaí in Dungarvan have been told that a developer had offered incentives to people involved in the planning process in an effort to get a mixed-use application approved.

As an initial part of their inquiry gardaí have decided to speak to all members of the county council informally to ascertain if the developer at the centre of the allegation had offered them any incentive for voting favourably on the application.

The Irish Times understands gardaí also plan to informally interview members of Waterford City Council when the current phase of their investigation is complete.

Some county councillors last night confirmed they had been informally interviewed.

Informed sources said gardaí asked the councillors if the developer or their agents had offered the councillors foreign trips or had pledged to make investments in local projects if they voted in favour of the planning application.

It is understood a member of the public approached an elected representative and relayed the allegations.

The representative then passed the information to gardaí in Dungarvan, and an official Garda investigation was begun.

Sources stressed that the investigation was at a very early stage and it was unknown at this point if corruption or criminal charges would follow or if a file would even be submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The investigation is the latest in a series of alleged corruption matters involving the council.

In 2005 all councillors were spoken to informally by gardaí when a complaint about alleged planning corruption was made to gardaí in the county. That allegation related to suspected irregularities with Part V contributions by building developers.

Part V planning contributions are payments made by developers to local authorities in lieu of providing a portion of a development for social and affordable housing as set out in the Planning and Development Act 2000.

Separately, one former employee is currently facing charges relating to allegations of corruption in the awarding of a building contract.

Joseph Brennan, of Ceithre Gaoithe, An Rinn, last appeared at Dungarvan District Court on March 11th on a charge that in November 2002 he induced a named individual to award a kerbing contract to another man with the intention of making gain for the contractor.

The accused, who has been granted bail, has not worked with the local authority for the last two years.

He is to appear again in court on Tuesday, when a date will be fixed for hearing.

The Irish Times

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