Wexford county council chief put 'unwarranted' pressure on local radio - Sipo report

The Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) has found that a local authority chief contravened the Local Government Act three times
Wexford county council chief put 'unwarranted' pressure on local radio - Sipo report

Sarah Slater

The Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) has found that a local authority chief contravened the Local Government Act three times.

The Commission found against Tom Enright, Wexford County Council’s chief executive, involving three of the alleged contraventions before it.

The report findings follow an investigation hearing conducted on November 12th last year.

The hearing followed a complaint, which was made by independent producer Karl Fitzpatrick.

The Commission’s report found that Mr Enright contravened the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 and 2001 and part 15 of the Local Government Act 2001.

Emails

The investigation hearing considered evidence in the form of documents, statements and recordings. The alleged contraventions centre on emails Mr Enright sent to the management of South East Radio August 29th and 30th, 2019.

Mr Enright felt content broadcast by South East Radio – on the Morning Mix in March 2019 and Business Matters in August 2019 was “biased, unprofessional and unfair to Wexford County Council”.

In the emails to the radio station Mr Enright said he was “ceasing Wexford County Council’s commercial relationship” as the “Council could not continue to support a radio station which behaved in this manner”. He said the Council’s “patience had run out” in terms of the broadcaster's response.

The Commission found Mr Enright also failed to maintain proper standards of integrity, conduct and concern for the public interest. The report continued, that Mr Enright has a right and an obligation to defend the reputation of the Council and his own reputation, but a person in his position must react in a proportionate and level-headed manner.

Tone

The report also said the content, tone, style and language of the emails were not appropriate and amounted to an over reaction on Mr Enright’s part. The Commission found it fell below what is expected of someone in his position.

Mr Enright, the report highlighted, misused the Council’s position, “in effect throwing around the weight of the council’s purse” by putting pressure on the radio station to alter its broadcasting practices.

The Commission said “there is no suggestion of corruption or deception in Mr. Enright’s conduct”. However, it said the manner in which he contacted the radio station was “disproportionate and inappropriate” and lacking in courtesy and respect thereby “bringing disrepute upon his position and the Council”.

It concluded that all three contraventions were “serious and were committed recklessly” with Mr Enright “not acting in good faith and failing to maintain proper standards of integrity”.

A statement, released by Mr Enright, following the publication of the Commissions report he said he is “extremely disappointed by the Commission’s findings”. Mr Enright added he “is exploring all options including legal options and is consulting with his legal advisers”.

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