KWETB board appoint committee to review engagement of legal advisors and payment of €82k legal fees

A committee has been appointed by the Board of the KWETB to review the hiring of legal firm, Philip Lee as advisors in response to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s Audit and subsequent investigation by the Department of Education and Skills and the payment of the €82,000 fees.

“ I wish to thank the Board members who supported my proposal that a committee be appointed to review both the engagement and payment of legal advisors for compliance with the Code of Practice for Education and Training Board’s. We owe it to tax-payers who have funded the payment of the €82,000 bill to get answers to questions around how the advisors were hired, what the terms of engagement were and where the legal files are. I am hopeful that this committee which is to report to the Chair of the KWETB in a month will get answers to those questions’ states Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy

At a Board meeting in December the executive (senior staff of KWETB) asked the board for direction regarding a letter demanding that legal fees of €82,000 be paid. Board members were reluctant to pay the bill and stated a number of reasons why. There were concerns that by the time the Board was made aware of the investigation or of the need for legal advice that almost €40,000 had already been raised in legal fees. Members also pointed out that they were being asked to pay for legal fees while at the same time being denied access to the legal files they were being asked to pay for. The matter was deferred to the next meeting on January 9th.

At the follow up meeting on January 9th Board members expressed shock and outrage when they were informed that the Acting CE had issued an instruction for the bill to be paid despite the expressed concerns of the Board.

At their Board meeting held on Monday (5th February)  in Tinakilly House hotel, Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy received support for her proposal to appoint a committee to report back to Noel Merrick Chair of the Board within a month regarding the bill. Board members voted on three  terms of reference. Firstly, that the committee review the circumstances around the hiring of the legal advisors Philip Lee. Secondly, that the committee review the circumstances around the payment of the €82,000 legal fee. And finally that the committee review the engagement of and payment to legal advisors for compliance with the Code of Practice for Education and Training Boards. With the exception of former Vice-Chair Cllr Brendan Weld who abstained from the votes, all Board members present on the day voted in favour of McLoughlin Healy’s proposal.

The Board nominated Cllr McLoughlin Healy, John Hurley and Cllr Reada Cronin to the committee tasked with the review and to report back to the Chair in a month.  The newly appointed Acting CE was not present at Monday’s meeting as he was on medical leave.

Monday’s meeting was a productive one. The executive also agreed to upload each board members remuneration from KWETB interview panels and conferences etc onto our website together with the Annual Financial Statement. This is a welcome development on the journey towards a more transparent and accountable organisation . Although the Code of Practice specifically recommends that board members earnings from KWETB be published, this has not been adhered to previously’ stated Cllr McLoughlin Healy

Cllr Teresa Murray asked that the Board be provided with a list of appointments at their bi-monthly meetings. Cllrs Jennifer Whitmore and Fiona McLoughlin Healy specifically asked for a list of all promotions awarded since the Comptroller and Auditor General arrived on site to conduct the audit which eventually led to the current investigation by the Department of Education and Skills
Last Monday’s public KWETB board meeting held in Tinakilly House Hotel.

Newbridge Town Hall New Payment Schedule

I am truly delighted to report that after over a year of lobbying for a fairer pricing structure for use of Newbridge Town Hall my fellow Cllrs approved a new payment schedule which I hope will make our town hall more accessible to community groups.

Here is the Payment Schedule as approved today.

Commercial – €40.00 per hour

Community – €15.00 per hour – rate after two hrs will decrease to €10.00 per hour

Day rate community – €60.00

Waiver:

Groups and events which will be considered for waivers are:

• Schools
• Public meeting
• Council events
• Community training eg Community first responders

Payments methods:
At the moment payments can be made on level 2 at Kildare County Council cash office, Aras Chill Dara. Groups will be invoiced on a monthly basis. I have asked that the Council move to a card based payment option they are considering as quickly as possible

Booking:
Groups will contact the facilities department in Aras Chill Dara by phone or email to make a booking.

Much work has yet to be done in managing and marketing the town hall and it was confirmed today that the Council is taking over the management the marketing and the accountability for this facility and I look forward to progress in that regard!

It is a beautiful, historic asset, centrally located within the community that we fought hard to get renovated and reopened after years of being dilapidated and closed. And I am grateful for the Council’s commitment to its refurbishment. But tax-payers investment in our town hall must pay community dividends. Our town hall must be accessible to all. I hope this is the start of a new era of collaboration between the community and the Council to achieve the full potential of this beautiful amenity.

#NewbridgeTownHall #Community #CommunityBenefit #FairAccess

See a sample of my previous council motions at the following links

My initial proposal for a differentiated pricing structure
http://fmcloughlinhealy.ie/review-town-hall/

One of my motions re review of Newbridge Town Hall
http://fmcloughlinhealy.ie/can-director-service-overall-re…/

Governance of local Approved Housing Bodies

My first question at  this month’s (18th April)  Municipal District meeting, ‘ Given previous concerns about governance of local Approved Housing Bodies which were sufficient to trigger a national audit approximately three years ago, can the council reassure members that the recommendations of both the national and local audit committees referencing Approved Housing Bodies in the municipal district have been fully implemented, in particular, each of the thirteen recommendations under the following eight headings:

  • Registration of Mortgage,
  • Nominations and Statement of Occupancy,
  • Inspections,
  • Record of Meetings,
  • Corporate Governance,
  • Financial Matters,
  • Leasing Arrangements
  • and Capital Projects.

Here is the report issued by Ms S Scully, Administrative Officer, Housing: The role of Kildare County Council is to (a) ensure Approved Housing Bodies (AHB) compliance with funding schemes, (b) enter into new Payment and Availability agreements, Capital Advance and Leasing facility agreements and provide funding under the Capital Assistance Scheme (c) enforce the conditions of mortgage agreements (d) ensure AHB compliance with tenant nomination policies.
In a recent progress report to the Local Government Audit Service on VFM Report No. 29, Kildare County Council reported either full or partial compliance on 23 of the 26 recommendations contained in the original report. An Acting Staff Officer was recently appointed to the Leasing Section and the focus of their role will be on completing retrospective work relating to outstanding items raised by both the national and local audit. Kildare County Council confirms that it withholds Management and Maintenance subsidies from AHBs who do not comply with annual compliance requirements.

Update on the implementation of Jakes Law in the KildareNewbridge Municipal District

My second question at this month’s (18th April) Municipal District meeting, ‘Can the council provide an update on the implementation of Jakes Law in the KildareNewbridge Municipal District including a list of estates that applied for Jakes Law signage in the first two phases and the council’s timeline for the roll out of the scheme across all estates?

Here is the report issued by ;Ms E Wright, Senior Executive Officer, Roads Transportation and Public Safety Section:  The following estates submissions were received under Phase 1 of Jake’s Law:

  •  Liffey Hall (The Walk, The Court, The Heath, The Avenue and The Downs)
  • Standhouse Lawns Estate
  • Pomeroy Park Estate

The signage is now in place in these estates. The following estates applied for signage to be installed under Phase 2 of Jake’s Law.

  • College Park
  • The Priory
  • Wellesley Manor
  • Pairc Mhuire
  • The Oaks
  • The Great Southern
  • Preston Brook

These estates will be assessed for signage as part of the Countywide Speed Limit Review which has commenced. The signage will be installed as part of this programme.

Update re: public lighting on the Green Road

My first motion at this month’s (18th April) Municipal District Meeting, ‘ In light of the four year campaign to get new lighting in this municipal district area, that the council provide an update on the October 2017 report which stated that ‘The Public Lighting section will shortly make an assessment for lighting on the Green Road in accordance with the Kildare Lighting Infrastructure Priority Schedule (KLIPS)’.

Here is the report issued by Ms E Wright, Senior Executive Officer, Roads Transportation and Public Safety Section: The Public Lighting Section has visited the location and carried out an assessment based on the criteria set out in KLIPS. The cost of installing the lights at this location is in the range of €75,000 to €80,000. There is currently no funding in this year’s public lighting budget to carry out the works. The request will be ranked on the KLIPS register and will be carried out contingent upon availability of funds and where the request sits in the KLIPS ranking register.

Dara Park Surface Water Scheme

My second motion at this month’s (18th April) Municipal District meeting, ‘In light of the failure of large swathes of the green area in Dara Park to recover and thrive, that the council reassess the landscaping works carried out at Dara Park after the Flood Alleviation Scheme works and clarify the following: how much the landscaping contract was worth separate to the flood alleviation scheme works; how the landscaping contractors were selected; and when the snag list requested by local residents is to be completed.

Report: See item 19.

No 19.MotionCouncillor S Power

That the council confirm that all works recently undertaken on behalf of the council at Dara Park have been completed to the satisfaction of the council and if an indication could be given as to what other works (environmental, footpaths, flood prevention) are planned for the area.

Report: Dara Park Surface Water Scheme

The aim of the scheme was to provide protection to the many properties that were affected by flooding on a regular basis. To do this, a new surface water network was constructed, and additional storage areas for extreme flooding were created. The scheme is now operational and working to the satisfaction of the council, as proven on the 22 November, where despite a blockage to the outfall, no properties were flooding by surface water.

Kildare County Council can now issue letters of comfort to the residents stating that the scheme offers protection for up to a 1% Annual Exceedence Probability event (equivalent to a 1 in 100 year storm). This is the standard required by insurers.

  • A substantial amount of additional works were carried out by the main Contractor including:
  • Landscaping plan (as presented and agreed by the Residents Association, April 4th 2016).(Construction of the plan represents approx 10% of total contract value).(The overall total in respect of works on the site is €255,000 .)
  • 410 metres of additional land drainage in the detention basin and north of the lake to remove existing ponding and create additional usable park land
  • Tarmacadaming of the paved area at the entrance to the estate
  • Cleaning of the lake and covering the existing outfall with a steel grid

There were also a number of additional items added to the contract, as a result of requests from the Residents Associations. These included:

  • 170 metres of additional footpaths
  • Removal of the boulders from the boundaries of the green areas
  • Topsoiling of the old tennis courts
  • Repairing of walls damaged by previous works
  • Construction of additional gullies to drain existing footpaths

A snag list was issued by the design consultant (which also included all issues raised by the Residents Associations at their site meeting with Directors of Services and Consulting Engineer on Thursday 18th May 2017). The only relevant outstanding item on the snag list refers to the trees planted by the Residents Associations adjacent to the Resource Centre which will require replanting, as they have been planted in close proximity to the new surface water pipeline and may compromise the network as they grow. These works will be carried out by Kildare County Council in the autumn.

As the purpose of the scheme was to resolve the surface water flooding affecting properties no further flood alleviation works in the area are required.

A final landscaping walkover was carried out by an independent landscape consultant on July 10 2017, who recommended that the works be monitored over a 12 month period to assess the success of the landscaping. Given the severe weather which occurred in February and March of this year and the very poor growing season to date, the assessment of the landscaping will continue to July 2018. The areas in question will continue to be monitored.

Report Issued by: Ms E Wright, Senior Executive Officer, Roads Transportation and Public Safety Section.

 

Council ask the Environmental Protection Agency to register environmentally friendly & sustainable actions implemented by local authorities

My motion at today’s (26th March) Full Council meeting, ‘ That the council ask the Environmental Protection Agency to register environmentally friendly and sustainable actions/schemes/protocols/procedures implemented by local authorities with a view to sharing information about the most effective and efficient actions by each local authority.

Here is the report issued by Mr J Boland, Director of Services, Environment & Water Services. ‘As part of the annual Environmental Performance Assessment of local authorities by the EPA, this information is already available online. Indeed, it is pleasing to note that Kildare County Council’s overall grade was “excellent” as part of the most recent assessment. This indicates very good performance, with a number of areas of strength. This is also above the national average assessment of “above target.”

Also as part of this assessment, Kildare County Council submitted the following key initiatives/milestones :-

  • Organised a reuse event during reuse month at Whitewater Shopping Centre
  • Kildare’s Green School Programme
  • The Council provided five locations for Christmas tree shedding and recycling around Kildare
  • Success of Kildare Town in the Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) league.
  • Pilot water quality in Clonshambo water body.

A number of similar initiatives/milestones are now being piloted for the next assessment. These will likely include the following :-

  • The rolling out of the Green Kilometre.
  • The Lilywhite Green Kilometre Countywide.
  • Lilywhite Clean-up day (April 7).
  • A number of other ongoing initiatives being delivered through the Tidy Towns Network Group.
  • Hosting of the Regional Climate Change Office.
  • A pilot project (currently being developed), aimed at addressing unathorised signange
  • Hazardous waste collection pilot.

Letter to female FG TDs/Senators with whom I had trained, asking for their support.

From: Fiona McLoughlin Healy <fiona@fmcloughlinhealy.ie>
Date: 25 January 2018 at 10:21:27 GMT
To: maura.hopkins@oir.iemaria.byrne@oireachtas.iejosepha.madigan@oireachtas.iemaria.bailey@oireachtas.iekate.oconnell@oir.ie
Subject: Your support for fellow female public representatives

Dear Josepha, Kate, Maura, both Maria B and Maria

As this is the year The Taoiseach has stated he is fully committed to progressing the rights of women under Fine Gael in Government I am hoping that you as fellow FG women, as women I trained closely with,  in the lead up to our GE campaigns that you can bring some pressure to bear for real change in how women are treated within the Fine Gael Party.

Many of you will know at least some of the catalogue of complaints below in which I outline the harassment, intimidation and isolation I have experienced in Kildare South over the last 3 years for having the audacity to practice the New Politics that the Party claims to espouse.  Some of you have experienced harassment first hand. Kate I appreciate your valuable work highlighting harassment by Barry Walsh but it would appear that the some women are more equal than others in that regard. So I am fully aware I am not the first female public representative in the party to experience harassment and intimidation. But just because it has always happened does not make it right. And it does not mean we have to tolerate it.

How can the Taoiseach state, as has been reported in press statements up and down the country, that he wants to see more women ‘embrace the opportunity’ to get involved in celebrating the Centenary of Irish women getting the vote when we are failing as a Party to hold ourselves to account for documented harassment and isolation of women within the Party? 

On July 3rd I sent the email copied below to the Taoiseach and have yet to receive a substantive response from him. I also sent the full complaint by mail.
In the wake of the Barry Walsh controversy I sent another email to the Taoiseach highlighting the disparity between how complaints by male FG members about myself were dealt with versus how complaints by myself about male FG members were dealt with. My understanding is that Barry Walsh participated in both panels. He certainly participated in the hearing of the complaint about me. The outcomes of both complaints were entirely inconsistent. I lost the Whip as a result of the complaint submitted about me by two male colleagues. On the other hand, although the substance of my complaint regarding two male FG colleagues was not contested, the Disciplinary committee considered it appropriate that the two male colleagues at the centre of the complaint, would suffer nil consequences.
Given the year that is in it, I am asking you as fellow colleagues, as fellow female representatives, to bring the might of your female collective to bear on holding ourselves to account for what is going on in Kildare South and elsewhere, with the goal of attracting and retaining more women into and in politics. Remember the privileged position you now hold, that many other women are disproportionately denied because of the 5 Cs – cash, confidence, culture, candidate selection and childcare – but also because when their sisters do get into positions of power, they pull the ladder up behind them as they ignore any moral imperative to improve the conditions for other women coming behind them.
 
This email isn’t just about the Party’s treatment of me (and other women in the Party) even as I stood up for the very values of New Politics which Fine Gael supposedly hold dear.  It is about female representatives helping other female representatives not get trampled on. It is about women in positions of power and influence using their platform to help prevent the intimidation and harassment of other women. I am asking that when your fellow female representatives are the subject of harassment and isolation that you choose not to ignore it as par for the course but that instead, you use your collective power and influence to ensure that that intimidation and harassment is called out.  Perhaps it is time for a #metoo campaign in the political arena. 
 
I would welcome your thoughts on what you can do in response to my experience in the Party, in a way that would enhance the experience of women in the political arena in the future long after I or even yourselves are gone. I would welcome your response before I take any further action in relation to my own experience and complaints. I appreciate that like myself you are all busy but I am willing to wait another 3 weeks for a response, from you.
 
I wish you all continued success 
 
Kind Regards
 
Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy

Dear Taoiseach

 
Please see below a copy of my complaint submitted to HQ in November before the Whip was removed from me. I was assured by Terry Murphy immediately after the Whip was removed that my own complaints ( submitted before the Whip was removed ) would be dealt with as assiduously as was the complaint by Cllr Darren Sculley against me.
 
During the hearing and my appeal evidence was provided by an employee of Kildare County Council about ongoing harassment by Cllr Weld of her, both at her place of work and at home. Together with the evidence provided by me, both at the hearing of the complaint against me, the subsequent appeal and the complaints submitted by me on November 21st ( see below) and before, they raise some serious issues regarding Fine Gael’s adoption of New Politics in Kildare South.
 
Note: The party representatives have not just failed to support my ongoing efforts for transparency and accountability from Kildare County Council but to thwart it. In brief, it has been well documented that FG’s Cllr Brendan Weld ( Mayor of Kildare at the time) called a meeting of all the group leaders just three months before the GE16 in an attempt to block my motions in the Council. Cllr Weld’s inexplicable and to this date unexplained action was on foot of a motion I had discussed days earlier in the Council which revealed that a FF Cllr ( and then GE16 candidate) had not declared a conflict of interest when signing off on a grant to an organisation, the applicant for which was her brother. Cllr Weld refused all attempts by me to communicate with him regarding his holding of the meeting and has never been held to account by anyone including the FG group ( which fails to adhere to best practice when holding any group meetings), or by HQ . I have had the whip removed. Cllr Weld has never been held to account for actions, the effect of which was to undermine the Party’s success in the GE16.
 
I continue to raise governance issues in Kildare County Council and when I do FG argues for less transparency not more, or seeks to justify the actions of the Executive when transparency and accountability is demonstrably poor. 
 
For example, I have raised concerns around the governance of, and failure of The Riverbanks Arts Centre to comply with both charity and company legislation at a time when €1million euro has been committed by the Department of Arts with matched funding from the Council. Neither the Dept or the Council did the minimum due diligence before committing funding that would have revealed both that filings were out of date with the CRO and had never been filed with the Charities Regulator.
 
I also raised the issue of Kildare County Council’s failure to perform its oversight function in relation to monies allocated to Town and County Twinning. Kildare County Council has failed to exercise its oversight function including failing to meet the requirements of the Local Government Act by omitting to include ‘expenditure and other particulars’ re its Twinning function from its annual accounts , failure to provide costings as legally required before voting on proposals for new Town Twins and the failure to provide or publish any information re Twinning since 2006. After three months of information gathering and research including a comparative analysis of Twinning across different local authorities ( paints a very poor picture nationally of its governance ) I submitted a motion for the Councils agenda asking that they publish the information that they do have. At the Council meeting FG members led a very personal and co-ordinated ad hominem attack on me, together with FF. 
 
One of the main reasons I joined the party in 2013 was because I believed in local government reform. I believed that the party were going to  lead the way in New Politics. My experience has been very different to what I expected of a party espousing a new type of open, transparent and accountable politics.
 
I have given HQ more than a reasonable length of time to deal with my complaint as they assured me they would, last November. It is increasingly difficult to believe that my experience of the old boys club in Kildare, and the groups failure to support me in the Council, as I fought for the very values and new politics we supposedly hold dear, was an error in judgement, a series of mistakes. It is increasingly difficult to believe that the continued attacks and attempts to undermine me is not endorsed at the highest levels in the party.
 
Senior members of the party are aware of my experience as outlined in the complaint addressed to Tom Curran in the email below. Senior members are aware of serious allegations not just by me but by an employee ( who informed those at my hearing that she was given leave to take a case against Cllr Weld)  about Cllr Weld. Senior members of the party are aware of the outstanding complaint re-submitted by me last November against Cllr’s Weld and Sculley. 
 
With respect Taoiseach, if you are serious about New Politics, I am asking that you personally look into why my complaint containing evidence of Cllr Weld’s attempted collusion with other party’s, and of behaviour intended to intimidate both myself and others has not been addressed by HQ. I believe I have been more than patient. If I do not receive a satisfactory update regarding the serious issues outlined including my formal complaint, by the 21st July, I will have no option but to seek justice outside of the party protocol and procedures.  
 
I remain open in the intervening weeks to assisting in the investigation of the complaints outlined and in bringing the investigation of my complaint to a close.
Yours sincerely
Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy
Kildare-Newbridge Municipal District

Can Councillors be furnished with Governance Report from the Riverbank Arts Centre

My first question at today’s (21st March) Municipal District meeting, ‘Since it was confirmed to this municipal district that we were entitled to ask for a governance report from the Riverbank Arts Centre in return for funding, can councillors be furnished with the report of it having been requested or received?
Here is the report issued by: Ms S Kavanagh, Director of Service, Economic Community and Cultural Development: At an in-committee meeting of the Kildare Newbridge Municipal District on 21 June 2017 a series of questions were asked by Councillor McLoughlin Healy that were more appropriate to be addressed to the Board of Management of Riverbank.
Following the meeting I asked Councillor McLoughlin Healy to forward me the questions so that I could be sure that none were overlooked. The questions were furnished to me and, following receipt of a response from the Board of Management, a reply issued to the councillor on 01 August 2017 – a copy of the reply was furnished to all of the Kildare-Newbridge Municipal District members.
A “governance report” was not sought although governance was referred to. As discussed previously with the Municipal District members funding provided to Riverbank Arts Theatre is provided on the basis of a funding agreement. Kildare County Council is satisfied, as a funding partner, that this funding helps to provide an excellent service to the people of Kildare..

Council Vote relating to the Riverbank Arts Centre

My second question at today’s (21st March) Municipal District meeting, ‘ In relation to the statement in the Annual Report which states that the council has 80% of the vote relating to the Riverbank Arts Centre, can the council confirm what does this mean and how is 80% of a vote executed?
Here is the report issued by: Ms S Kavanagh, Director of Service, Economic Community and Cultural Development: There are five Directors on the Board of Management of Riverbank Arts Centre Ltd. Each Director has one vote. Three of the Directors were nominated by Kildare County Council and one is a Kildare County Council official therefore Kildare County Council has 80% of the voting rights as a percentage of the total Board of Management.