The SDLP has lambasted Craigavon Council’s chief executive after claims she had queried how members voted in relation to her bid for cash.
According to Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly, party colleague Cllr Joe Nelson was questioned on how he voted when Dr Theresa Donaldson requested up to £5k for training and towards applying for a post in the new council system.
Speaking as the party’s Local Government spokesperson, she said: “I have been contacted by colleagues in two councils in relation to requests by chief executives for funding of up to £5k to assist them in the preparation of RPA and in particular in their application for new positions.
“The SDLP has voted against these proposals which is right and proper.
“The Minister [DoE, Mark H Durkan] is aware of the situation and is quite shocked that people in well paid positions would consider asking ratepayers, many of whom are low paid workers, to foot the bill.
“I understand the chief executive of Craigavon Council had words with group leaders in relation to their party stance in giving this money and their vote.
“In 18 years of service as a councillor on Craigavon Council that was unheard of. I find it quite incredible that such a line would be crossed.
“At DoE Committee at Stormont and at meetings with the Minister we found that the powers of the local government auditor are grossly inadequate and the SDLP will be examining closely the legislation on the Local Government Bill and making recommendations to strengthen that authority,” said the MLA.
Mr Nelson said he was ‘taken aback’ during a meeting with the chief executive (CE) regarding the leaking of a document recently regarding her request for up to £5k.
Mr Nelson, who described the meeting as having a ‘robust atmosphere’, said: “I was taken aback that it was contemplated that I may have been responsible for leaking that as I knew I was not.”
At that meeting, two weeks ago, Sinn Fein had voted against giving the CE any funding while SDLP members abstained as they had requested a breakdown of what the money would be used for.
And at the meeting between Mr Nelson and the CE on Monday, Mr Nelson claimed Dr Donaldson questioned whether she had the support of the SDLP and questioned if she had the support of the nationalists on Craigavon Council. Mr Nelson said the CE also implied that the information she received was that the leak came from the SDLP which he totally refuted and that she had also suggested his party did not want to see a woman get the new job.
“This is absolutely and utterly untrue. We uphold the view that the appointment of a new chief executive will be on the basis of merit and nothing else. We are, after all, the party of equality.”
Mr Nelson said that he had previously always had a good rapport with Dr Donaldson and was shocked and surprised at the tenor of the meeting.
The council refused to comment on the matter.