The Standards in Public Office Commission has opened a hearing into the conduct of the Chief Executive of Wexford County Council.
Mr. Tom Enright is accused of alleged contraventions of the Local Government Act 2001 and alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct for employees.
The hearing by the Standards in Public Office Commission was held yesterday after Mr. Enright threatened to withdraw commercial funding from South East Radio. It was on foot of a complaint made by independent producer Karl Fitzpatrick, and not South East Radio.
The allegations centre on email exchanges in August 2019 between the radio station management and Mr. Enright.
Conor Power, Senior Counsel, told the Commission 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 a series of 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 broadcasters response.
South East Radio’s Managing Director Eamonn Buttle told the Commission he held a meeting with Mr. Enright and he believed “the issue was resolved”. Mr Buttle said the threat of withdrawing council support created a serious problem for the radio station.
The hearing was told the threat was subsequently withdrawn in September 2019 after it was agreed, at the suggestion of South East Radio, to refer the complaints to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.
Mr. Buttle said South East Radio did not accept the validity of the complaints against its coverage but felt an independent investigation would help to resolve matters.
He told the Commission the radio stations relationship with Wexford County Council was “important and it wasn’t just a financial relationship”.
Inquiry Officer Rachel Lord, who was appointed to produce a preliminary report on the matter for the Commission, said in her view there was enough evidence to justify a public hearing.
Ms Lord said she believed Mr. Enright, in his correspondence, put pressure on the radio station to alter its broadcasting practices and that was not in keeping with the standards expected in the Code of Conduct.
The Commission retired to consider the submissions.