Council payout to chief may face legal probe

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Sinn Fein is to take legal advice on the allocation of up to £5k to Craigavon Council’s chief executive in her bid to apply for a Super Council post.

The Mail revealed last week that Dr Theresa Donaldson’s request for the cash had been approved by a majority of councillors in committee.

But Sinn Fein Cllr Mairead O’Dowd this week criticised the decision, adding her party would be investigating its implications and will be seeking legal and financial advice.

Party colleague Cllr Tommy O’Connor said the proposal came before council without any detail of what the money would be spent on or any ‘proper explanation’.

“Sinn Fein opposed this decision and we have serious concerns about the legal and financial implications it may entail.

“It is possible and indeed likely that Craigavon’s unionist representatives on the Statutory Transition Committee have disqualified themselves from the appointment process for the chief executive of our new councils.”

He queried the decision-making process, claiming the chief executive had failed to comply with council’s Good Governance Policy regarding declaring a conflict of interest. He was also concerned that she remained in the chamber while the matter was dealt with. He accused unionists of pushing this decision through without getting the “necessary information”.

Mrs O’Dowd said: “Accountability is a key factor when deciding how to spend public funds and agreeing spend in this cavilier manner is not only dangerous, it fails to comply with the good governance requirement for transparency and openness.”

A council spokesperson said: “Craigavon is very proactive in that a training programme has already started for relevant staff (and members). This is the biggest change to local government for 40 years and as such, while delivering economies of scale for the ratepayers, will involve a significant change for our staff and for our main stakeholders. It’s imperative therefore that we as a council can embrace the inevitable challenges bringing three organisations together as smoothly as possible. Council considered it prudent therefore to ensure that the chief executive is adequately supported to manage the business as usual and deliver the change program in Craigavon.”