Cllr McLoughlin Healy isn't aware of nature of concerns
Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy has stepped away from a sub-committee established by the Kildare and Wicklow Education Training Board (KWETB) to investigate the payment, against the board’s wishes, of a €83,000 legal bill.
The bill was paid to legal firm Philip Lee over Christmas despite board members’ unease, and their instructions to staff of the KWETB not to pay it until they could find out more about it.
However in one of his final acts as CEO of the KWETB, and in the face of mounting pressure from Philip Lee to pay it, on Christmas Eve Sean Ashe ordered that the bill be paid. Mr Ashe retired at the end of the year.
In response to the anger expressed at their January meeting over the payment of their bill, the Board established a small sub-committee consisting of Cllr McLoughlin Healy, Cllr Reada Cronin and John Hurley to investigate the matter.
In the past week, Cllr McLoughlin Healy contacted the chairman of the KWETB, Noel Merrick to express her concerns that the sub-committee’s work could be delayed by perceived conflicts of interest and requested that the Acting Chief Executive be given an opportunity to express his concerns regarding her membership of the committee.
These conflicts of interest, the Leader understands, do not relate to any potential beneficial interest to Cllr McLoughlin Healy in the €82,000 bill.
In an email to board members of the KWETB, Mr Merrick explained that in fact, the Acting CE Rory O’Toole had raised the concerns about possible conflicts of interest.
“With that in mind and in light of the concerns raised by the Acting Chief Executive, Fiona informed me on Friday afternoon that that she is stepping away from the committee to allow it to conduct its work and to access information as promptly as possible,” Mr Merrick wrote in an email to members on Monday, February 19.
And he proposed that the Vice Chair, John McDonagh, replace her on the committee which was expected to report back to the Chairman by Monday March 5.
In a statement to the Leinster Leader, Mr O’Toole noted that all board members are required to declare conflicts of interest as they arise during the course of their work, role and function, and that where conflicts arise “or strong perceptions of conflicts are identified, it is prudent for members to step aside whilst that work is being conducted.
“This is normal practice and is in line with good corporate governance.”
His statement noted that “one of the three subcommittee members, following discussions with the Chair noted a possible perceived conflict of interest regarding their position on the subcommittee. In order to not delay the work that member opted, last Friday, to step away from the subcommittee to allow it to conduct its work.”
His statement concluded by acknowledging “the work of the member concerned and their commitment to the process”.
Cllr McLoughlin Healy told the Leinster Leader she had stepped down because the CE had expressed a concern about her being on the committee and because she didn’t want to impede the process. Notwithstanding this, she said she was not aware of the nature of the CE’s concern. “I’m at a bit of a loss myself,” she admitted.
1.30pm, Thursday, February 22, 2018: This article has been updated.