Censure imposed after councillor breached Code of Conduct

Colr. Sean McGlinchey
Colr. Sean McGlinchey

A Sinn Fein councillor found to have breached the ‘Councillors’ Code of Conduct’ has said he is “glad” the investigation is over.

At a hearing of the Commissioner for NI Local Government Ethical Standards, held in Coleraine yesterday morning, the Acting Commissioner, Ian Gordon, concluded Councillor Sean McGlinchey had breached the Councillors’ Code of Conduct and imposed a sanction of censure.

The sanction was imposed following an investigation into a complaint that at the monthly meeting of the Council on 22 September, 2015, Colr. McGlinchey raised an issue with the Director of Environmental Services concerning the lack of financial support for a community event in Dungiven.

A release on behalf of the Acting Commissioner stated Councillor McGlinchey was “critical of the Director as he felt he had been given no help nor assistance from Council officials. The matter raised was not directly linked to the committee report being considered under the Council agenda item. The remarks amounted to a strongly worded and unwarranted criticism of the Council Official’s professionalism.”

In reaching the decision, the Acting Commissioner noted that Councillor McGlinchey had accepted his failure to comply with the Code and had since apologised to the Council official and undertaken further training on the Code of Conduct.

“The issue arose from a legitimate concern on the part of Councillor McGlinchey seeking support for a local community clean-up project. The effect, however, of raising this matter without proper notice was that a Council official was subjected to public criticism without being afforded an opportunity to respond or to defend his reputation. Councillor McGlinchey’s actions were inappropriate and caused offence and embarrassment to the Council Officer,” the statement read.

The Acting Commissioner stated that as the principal purpose of sanctions is the preservation of public confidence in local government representatives, any sanction imposed must be justified in the wider public interest and designed to discourage or prevent the respondent, or others, from any future failures to comply with the Code.

“Against the background of mitigating factors, all sanctions were considered.

“This, however, was not an inadvertent failure to comply with the Code and despite his apology, Councillor McGlinchey’s conduct merited the sanction of censure,” said the statment.

Speaking after the hearing, Colr. McGlinchey - who was represented by solicitor, Ruairi Muldoon from MacDermott, McGurk & Partners - told the ‘Journal’ it was a matter that had taken 18 months, but which he believed could have been resolved internally.

However, Colr. McGlinchey said he was “glad” the matter was over, and he wanted to “move on, put it to bed, and continue with my work as a councillor.”