The Standards in Public Office Commission has ruled that Longford County Council CEO Tim Caffrey acted “negligently to a high degree” by contravening the Local Government Act when he failed to notify the Cathaoirleach of the local authority of his interest in a property which was due to be purchased by a charity after the County Council made a submission for €250,638 in funding on its behalf from the Department of the Environment.
In January of last year, former County Councillor Larry Bannon, who was the chair of the local authority at the time, submitted a complaint to the Commission after it emerged Mr Caffrey owned the property in question.
“At no time did I receive any notification in writing from the County Manager Tim Caffrey of his interest in a proposed sale of his dwelling to the Muiríosa Foundation in accordance with the provisions of section 178(2)(b) of the Local Government Act 2001, notwithstanding that Longford County Council appeared to be involved in arrangements to facilitate the financing of this proposed purchase,” Mr Bannon wrote. “While it is accepted that the proposed sale did not take place, my allegation is that Longford County Manager Tim Caffrey failed to comply with the provisions of section 178(2)(b) of the Local Government Act 2001, in that he as manager of a local authority had actual knowledge of a matter that he had a pecuniary or other beneficial interest in, or which is material to, any matter which was proposed or otherwise arose from or as regards the performance by the authority of any of its functions under the Local Government Act 2001 or any other enactment.”
Having launched an investigation into the claims, and subsequent to Mr Caffrey’s appearance at a public hearing in September, the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) has ruled that the County Council CEO “did not act in good faith”.
In its report, published today, the Commission found that “Mr Caffrey contravened section 178(2)(b) of the Local Government Act 2001 in the manner alleged in the Statement of Alleged Contravention. The Commission is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the contravention was committed negligently to a high degree and that it was, in all the circumstances, a serious matter. By its nature, the Commission finds that the contravention is not continuing.”
The SIPO reports Findings and Determinations continued by rejecting Mr Caffrey’s submission that he breached the act inadvertently and that by declaring his interest in the property would “merely result in two entries in the register of interests recording the fact of his ownership of this particular property, given his compliance with the requirement to make an annual declaration”.
It also stated that ignorance of the Local Government Act’s provisions “is no excuse for a person in Mr Caffrey’s position”.
Furthermore, the Commission rejected Mr Caffrey’s view that “as the Cathaoirleach had no role in the executive function in question, there could be no obvious reason to inform him of the interest, other than the specified requirement under section 178(2)(b) which he says he was not aware of.
Summing up its verdict, the Commission concluded that “Having regard to all of these findings, the Commission finds that Mr Caffrey did not act in good faith.”
In a statement released this afternoon, Mr Caffrey indicated his intention to seek a judicial review:
“Mr Tim Caffrey is very disappointed with the findings of the Standards in Public Office Commission, which were published today,” the statement said. “He is now considering the option of pursuing a judicial review of one of these findings, which the Standards of Public Office was not entitled to reach.
“The Standards of Public Office hearing was asked to consider two issues:
* Were Mr Caffrey’s actions neglect or an oversight?
* Were Mr Caffrey’s actions serious or minor?
“However, in its findings the Commission has included an additional finding that: ‘Mr Caffrey did not act in good faith’.
“He utterly rejects this finding, as he has always acted in good faith in public office during an unblemished career of 45 years as a public servant in local government.”