Kildare Wicklow ETB investigation again discussed behind closed doors

Board members promised legal advice

Niamh O'Donoghue

Reporter:

Niamh O'Donoghue

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niamh.odonoghue@leinsterleader.ie

Kildare Wicklow ETB investigation again discussed behind closed doors

KWETB is based at Aras Chill Dara, Naas

The Department of Education investigation into how the Kildare Wicklow Education and Training Board (KWETB) conducts its business was again discussed behind closed doors at a KWETB meeting this morning. 

Some board members expressed concern, at the KWETB monthly meeting at Aras Chill Dara in Naas, about the discussions being held in private.

A row erupted at last month's meeting on September 27 after Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy called for the rationale behind the decision to air the briefing in committee. The matter was discussed, a vote was taken, and on foot of legal advice, members opted for the briefing to be given in the absence of the press so the investigation would not be damaged. 

READ MORE: Row over Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board inquiry erupts at meeting

A week later, the Department of Education announced it was launching an investigation into procurement issues, building projects, car pooling and the sale of a vehicle as part of its terms of reference.

Meanwhile, it emerged on Friday October 6, KWETB Sean Ashe told the board chairman he would be retiring at the end of the year. 

This morning, Cllr Jennifer Whitmore said she was unhappy about the “rolling” nature of the discussions being held in committee, given the fact the two major developments since the September meeting.

Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy questioned why the discussion about the rationale for the briefing to be held in private, was not included in the minutes from September 27, given the discussion was held during the public section of the meeting. 

The board’s legal representative informed members they had voted for the discussion to be held in committee and that would mean any further discussion, should also be held in private. He said they could decide to discuss the issue in public, but that decision would have to be made in committee.

In relation to the recording of the minutes, he said there is an investigation ongoing and it is critically important that the investigation is not prejudiced.

SEE ALSO: Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board says it is cooperating with government inquiry into its practices

Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy asked that the Chairman, the Vice Chair and the person taking the minutes step aside while a discussion on the minutes was taking place, as there may be a conflict of interest. She said the person taking the minutes, was also in charge of procurement issues, which is one of the terms of reference of the investigation, and the other two people were mentioned in the report. 

She stressed she was not accusing the three people of any wrongdoing, but said this was the correct protocol to be followed.

Cllr Teresa Murray said she was unhappy to vote on this and asked for legal advice. 

Chairman, Jim Ruttle said he had no conflict of interest. 

“You are named in the documents,” said Cllr McLoughlin Healy.

“A lot of people are,” he replied. 

He said the board had dealt with the conflict of interest matter before, and Cllr Daragh Fitzpatrick had pointed out councillors had made their declarations of interest in their annual declarations.

Cllr McLoughlin Healy said she had asked for this document.

She said members still hadn’t received the written legal advice about the investigation, which was promised to them. 

“It’s being provided and it will be provided,” said Chairperson Ruttle.

Cllr Whitmore said she also wanted to see the legal advice, which had been promised. The legal representaive said all the correspondance had been summarised in one document.

Cllr McLoughlin Healy said she wanted to see everything, emails, notes etc, not just the summary. 

Cllr Whitmore said “I feel like the board has been kept in the dark on this issue. The last time (the vote to go in committee on September 27), I wanted to follow due process and do everything fairly but I do not think the board has been treated fairly,” she said. 

Cllr Daragh Fitzpatrick put forward a motion to get legal opinion. 

Board member, John Doyle said Cllr McLoughlin Healy had a valid point in relation to the temporary standing aside of the chair, the vice chair and the minute taker. He said the board had to be fair and seen to be fair in the way in conducted its business and it was important to get legal advice. 

Cllr McLoughlin Healy said she wanted to make an amendment to the minutes from the last meeting. 

None of the councillors seconded the motion, with some saying that some of the items she mentioned were discussed, but others were not. 

The entire matter was left until the end of the meeting, where it was discussed in private.