THE Chief Executive of Mayo County Council has described the discussion of staff matters in council chambers as ‘utterly inappropriate’ after a proposal to survey staff on integrity in the local authority was rejected.
The comments by Peter Hynes were made following a notice of motion forwarded by Westport-based councillor Peter Flynn on a report from Transparency International Ireland.
The report ranked Mayo County Council as the third-worst county council in Ireland in terms of integrity, and Cllr Flynn feels questions need to be asked about the workings of the council. He proposed that councillors and employees participate in a confidential and independent survey on the topic of integrity in the workplace.
The type of questions that Cllr Flynn suggested should be included in the survey are: ‘Are all employees treated equally?’, ‘Are they promoted based on ability or obedience?’, ‘Are employees’ email accounts monitored?’ and ‘Is big business treated differently on planning?’.
“They are serious questions that need to be asked and I am aware of how serious they are,” Cllr Flynn told yesterday’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council. “I do think integrity is the pillar of any organisation and if there are question marks over integrity then everything else falls around it and that starts from the top down.
“I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not questioning employees of this organisation who I have absolute faith in. When it comes to integrity, it is all about leadership in this organisation.”
The proposal was seconded by his Fine Gael party colleague Cllr Donna Sheridan.
Chief Executive of Mayo County Council Peter Hynes rejected the finding that integrity issues exist within the council. A report was circulated online prior to the meeting, in response to Cllr Flynn’s notice of motion, stating: ‘Council actions, decisions and finances are fully transparent, and Council elected members and employees operate with utmost integrity in providing hundreds of services to our public’.
At the meeting, Mr Hynes added: “We operate to the highest ethical standards and meet all the required statutory obligations. Any inference otherwise is completely rejected and is unfair to all the hardworking elected members and staff and management who have worked with this organisation for many years. It is also entirely inappropriate. It is a clear effort to interfere in the operations of this local authority and to interfere in staff matters which are not a matter of the elected council.”
Cllr Sheridan replied that since joining Mayo County Council, she found it difficult to get information regarding the decision to remove Marie Crowley from her position as the Head of the Castlebar Municipal District.
Ms Crowley is married to Cllr Flynn, who removed himself from the chamber when she was mentioned.
Cllr Sheridan’s comments also caused Mr Hynes to suggest the discussion be ‘terminated’, while Cathoirleach Cllr Brendan Mulroy said the discussion was moving into ‘dangerous territory’.
Cllr Sheridan commented that she wanted to know the justification for moving Ms Crowley, but Cllr Mulroy said they had no right to discuss employment situations.
As the discussion continued, Fianna Fáil councillor Damien Ryan said he was uncomfortable with what was being discussed, and he proposed rejecting the motion.
“The way this motion is worded asks questions of my integrity and every other member’s integrity. I propose that it not be adopted. We are getting into dangerous territory here and there is a big difference between executive function and reserved function, and that is our role here,” he said.
Cllr Flynn did not return for the remainder of the meeting, and his motion was not adopted. On conclusion of the discussion, Mr Hynes warned against discussing staff issues in the chamber.
“Any discussion on staff matters in this chamber is utterly and entirely inappropriate, and if there are consequences which flow from this discussion then [be they] on the heads of those who initiated it.”