A request for information on Mayo VEC expenses by Castlebar Town Council has upset committee members.
Mayo VEC CEO, Katie Sweeney, informed members at their meeting this week that a notice of motion had been passed by the town council demanding to know the amount of expenses paid to committee members. There was no indication as to which councillors had raised the notice of motion and no obligation under Freedom of Information (FOI ) to reveal details, she added.
Padraig Cosgrove stated members were tied into a statutory rate of expenses and allowances. “I don’t see what business our expenses would be of Castlebar Town Council,” he said. “If they want to find out it’s there on public record but it doesn’t say much if that’s the only expense item of concern to them.”
Chairman, Cllr Jarlath Munnelly, said members had nothing to hide and it was custom for public officials to be asked their expenses every year “which would be followed by a two-day hoo haa and then that was it”.
Cllr Johnny O’Malley said his own expenses were incorrectly reported in the local paper before as a result of which he was ‘ballyragged’ afterwards. “This is used to downgrade the work of councillors and for the vilification of politicians. People are entitled to know but without bias.”
Cllr Richard Finn said they should know who submitted the notice of motion. “If they want information on members’ expenses let them go and find it out themselves,” he added. “What authority have they to ask this? No right. How dare Castlebar Town Council!”
Cllr Eddie Staunton said: “It’s the manner this is being sought that annoys me.”
Cllr Tom Connolly said he had no problem revealing expenses but asked why was it the only council asking for such information.
Cllr Patsy O’Brien said it was “very rich” of Castlebar Town Council to ask for such information, that was “not their business” and was simply “nit-picking”. “We’re getting such a baton used against us at every turn which is very unfair,” he said. “We are doing the job we were elected to do and not doing anything we shouldn’t. It’s gone overboard.”
Cllr Michelle Mulherin said reporting what people were getting was reactionary and populist. “This is about catching headlines and not solving real problems going on. Rates are set out by statute and that’s the end of it. This is nonsense.”
Cllr Blackie Gavin said the perception was members were receiving salaries as committee members. “People say that fella is getting ten grand but I am not getting a salary. I’m here in my own time and not getting a shilling to attend all the meetings.”
Cllr Eddie Staunton proposed that the status quo be retained, ie, that the committee continue to operate as heretofore and not provide the information. “We have enough to do.” This was agreed by members.