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DUP councillor suspended for failing to declare conflict of interest

A DUP councillor and former mayor of Causeway Coast & Glens Council has been suspended over a breach in the code of conduct in regards to a conflict of interest.

The Councillor, George Duddy, has been given a three month suspension by the Local Government Commissioner for Standards. The investigation found the Mr Duddy had breached the ‘Local Government Code of Conduct relating to general conduct and the disclosure and declaration of interests.’

The details at the hearing yesterday (Thursday), the Commissioner Marie Anderson heard that the Mr Duddy failed to declare that he had a ‘significant non-financial interest’ in a Coleraine Church, Terrace Row Presbyterian Church.

Causeway Coast and Glens Council had been renting a car park from the church to help with car parking in the town. The council were having discussion regards the car park lease and part of the discussion was the consideration of ending the lease.

A committee meeting  took place on 6th September 2016  at which Councillor Duddy,  declared his interest pertaining to the item relating to the church car park. As is the procedure he left the room. However it emerged that before the committee meeting at his groups pre meeting Mr Duddy had asked another councillor to ask a question on the car park matter.

The Commissioners findings were that asking another councillor to ask questions ‘on his behalf’ was a serious breach of the rules of the disclosure and declaration of interest .

At a full council meeting which was held on the 27th September, Mr Duddy failed to declare an interest in the church this time, but made comment on the plans and went on to vote in favour of the proposal to extend the car park’s lease.

This Comissioner further found this was in breach of paragraphs 6.3 and 6.4 of the Code.

Despite the council motion to extend the lease being defeated The Commissioner, Ms Anderson said that had the motion passed that there would have been ‘significant financial benefit to the church’.

Mr Duddy had refused to attend a second interview that was setup with those investigations the breach and had not co-operated with them so he was found to have breached rule 4.6 of the Code.

Mr Duddys failure to register an interest in the church was withdrawn with the permission of the Commissioner and Ms Anderson also took not of Mr Duddys good conduct and his ‘exemplary’ record of public service, but these were outweighed by the ‘deliberate nature of the breached’.

Given the seriousness of these breached, Councillor George Duddy will be suspended for a period of three months.

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