There was widespread condemnation of Independent Castlebar Cllr Frank Durcan by his fellow elected representatives this week after he laid a charge of “bare faced fraud” against county manager Peter Hynes at the November meeting of Mayo County Council. The firebrand councillor had taken to the floor of the chamber to speak on an item to approve an overdraft accommodation of €10 millon for Mayo County Council for 2013.
Mr Hynes has refuted the allegations and said that he is to take counsel on the matter. He said he can assure all the councillors that the expenses claims made by him were all in accordance with proper order and proper circulars.
Councillor Durcan opposed the passing of the provision of the overdraft so he could speak on the issues he wanted to raise and was seconded by Cllr Gerry Ginty. This was after Cllr Joe Mellett, seconded by Cllr Annie Maye Reape, had proposed the passing of the item to allow the meeting to continue.
However, Cllr Durcan took to the floor and listed a number of items of expenditure that the council had paid over the past number of years that he had obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Included in this list were the expenses claimed by Mr Hynes from his time as county manager and from his previous position as a director of services for the council.
Cllr Durcan narrowed in on a memo he said was from Mr Hynes which said Mr Hynes did not submit his receipts for an expenses claim to the accounts department when requested to 2009, and he had not done for the seven previous years.
He also hit out at expenses claims for Mr Hynes, where he would claim from his then work base in Westport to go to Castlebar for morning meetings, even though he would be passing through Castlebar on his way to Westport from his residence.
Cllr Durcan also claimed that since Mr Hynes became county manager he did not format his expenses claims as to what they were for, and asked, “Is this accountability and transparity?” Although Cllr Durcan did concede that it was stated Mr Hynes’ formatted claims were available for audit purposes, but not for Freedom of Information requests.
When Cllr Durcan ceded the floor, councillors from all parties hit back at his serious claims, with a number of councillors calling on him to withdraw his claim of fraud and to show what proof he had. The majority of other councillors also said they never found Mr Hynes to be anything other than a very hard working man for the betterment of Mayo in his many roles in the council.
John Condon, meetings administrator for Mayo County Council, told the meeting, “These allegations are not suitable for this chamber”. He added, “If this person believes in the strength of these allegations, he should go to the proper authorities with them, the same councillor has been making allegations for 45 years and none have ever stood up.”
Responding to the allegations, Mr Hynes said to the meeting, “I will not say much on this, I will take counsel. But, I’ll be very happy to meet any charge he makes. I can assure all the councillors that the expenses claims by me were all in accordance with proper order and proper circulars.”