Independent councillor Frank Durcan showed in no uncertain terms this week what he thought about a letter and a copy of the code of conduct for councillors, which he received from county secretary John Condon, reprimanding him for his actions at the previous meeting of the local authority. Walking from his seat in the chamber to the top bench, Cllr Durcan told the meeting, “You can do what you want with that (the letter ) as far as I’m concerned, and the code,” as he started to tear the letter into small pieces before dropping the remains of it on front of the county secretary.
Cllr Durcan received the letter after he was told he was in breach of the code of conduct for councillors, when he raised the issue of the denial of his freedom of information request about retired members of staff in the council who had been re-employed by the council on contract basis. He had been told at that meeting he was in breach of the code by looking for preferential treatment by raising the issue in the chamber as a councillor, since he was the applicant for the request that was refused.
Cllr Durcan returned to the issue at the meeting. “We don’t know how many ex-employees have been re-employed on investigative committees and on interview boards,” he said. “We are the people they (the council management ) are answerable to, we’re the board of directors. I’m elected by the people to ask these questions and to get the answers.”
County secretary John Condon was not moved by Cllr Duncan's display in the chamber. “By raising the matter again, you have breached the code once again,” he told the councillor. “And if the situation arises again that I have to write a letter, I will. Otherwise I will not be carrying out my duties. I think you should cop on and take the advice of the code.”
Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser after the meeting Cllr Durcan hit out at the code of conduct itself. “How can an official come up with a code of conduct for the councillors? It is like the workers in a company coming up with a code of conduct for the managing directors.” The independent councillor also said it was scandalous for the county secretary to write such a letter to him. “It wasn’t his place to write such a letter, it’s the chairperson’s,” he asserted. “For a mere employee to write such a letter is scandalous. I am doing my job, as an elected councillor I should be entitled to the information I’m looking for.”
County secretary Condon told the Mayo Advertiser that Cllr Durcan’s breaches of the code were very serious matters. “The code is very serious and the councillors are obliged by law to comply with it,” he said. “It is actually illegal and it can result in serious action if he continues. There is a standards in public office commission that can get involved, and it can even end up in a prosecution depending on the breach, not that we are looking for this.” Mr Condon added he would continue to take whatever action was appropriate, and that since the code of conduct came into being approximately 50 people had been members of Mayo County Council and Cllr Durcan was the only one to breach it.