Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board (KWETB) votes to request legal firm provide it with letter

Last meeting of current board held last week

Conor McHugh

Reporter:

Conor McHugh

Email:

conor@leinsterleader.ie

KWETB votes to request legal firm provide it with letter

Cllr Reada Cronin

The Board of Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board (KWETB) is prepared to report a legal firm that provided advice to a former chairman and vice-chairman of the board to the law society.

At a meeting of KWETB last Friday morning, former county councillor Reada Cronin proposed that the law firm Philip Lee be asked to provide the board with the letter of engagement it drew up between itself and the two men, Jim Ruttle and Brendan Weld.

And failing that, she proposed that the Board report Philip Lee to the Law Society. The board voted to agree her proposal.

The move comes against a background of controversy when the board was presented in 2017 with the bill for €82,000 for the legal advice given to the two men.

Philip Lee is not the KWETB's regular legal firm. The board was unaware that legal advice had been sought by the men and was never asked to approve the expenditure on the legal advice.

In addition, the board is not even aware of what the legal advice was, even though it was asked to pay for it. Now the board wants to see the letter of engagement, known as a Section 68 letter, and is prepared to go to the Law Society if Philip Lee does not provide it.

The legal advice was sought by the two men on the advice of the Department of Education after the Comptroller and Auditor General discovered irregularities in the organisations accounts for 2015.

Against the board's wishes and before it had a chance to get to the bottom of the source of the bill and the circumstances surrounding it, Sean Ashe, the outgoing CEO paid the bill at Christmas 2018.

At that time, Philip Lee was pushing strongly for payment of the bill. Another member of the KWETB, Cllr Jennifer Whitmore suggested to the members that it be recommended to the incoming board that they continue to push for answers on the matter.

Cllr Whitmore also felt strongly that the Department of Education had played a role in this saga and should be encouraged to both examine its own role and explain it.

Last Friday's meeting of the KWETB is also the last meeting of the current membership of the board. Following the local elections in recent weeks a new board will be established in the coming months and the current members will perform a care-taker role until then, according to outgoing chairman Noel Merrick.

Former councillor Reada Cronin and current councillor Fiona McLoughlin Healy will not be on the new board. The meeting also heard that former chairman Jim Ruttle resigned, as did Deirdre Coughlan Murray, a Naas businesswoman.

Incoming councillors include Angela Feeney, Peter Hamilton, Ide Cussen, Evie Salmon, Daragh Fitzpatrick and Bernard Caldwell.