The Cathaoirleach of Wexford County Council is considering a possible inquiry, arising from a series of emails, sent by a senior official of the authority to South East Radio.
Earlier this month, details of an email were made public which was sent by the County Secretary & Ethics Registrar David Minogue to the Managing Director of South East Radio Eamonn Buttle.
In the email, Mr. Minogue sought to lay down three “criteria” for South East Radio’s presenters in the context of the Council taking out advertising with the radio station. One of the criteria included that presenters would not express personal opinions.
South East Radio’s Managing Director Eamonn Buttle responded strongly to this email saying it was “staggering”. He added “Wexford County Council had continually tried to use improper influence, threats legal and financial and editorial interference over the past three years”.
Mr. Buttle says “an independent investigation into the Council’s attempts at editorial interference is required to uphold public trust in the local authority”.
Eamonn Buttle accused Mr. Minogue of defaming him, by saying Mr. Buttle had leaked email correspondence between them to the press. Mr. Minogue says he now accepts that Mr. Buttle did not leak the emails.
On the 13th of April, David Minogue said “he was interpreting what the radio station had said, as implying that he, had acted in contravention of the Local Government Act”. He said “it was his statutory duty as Ethics Registrar to report such a possible contravention to the Cathaoirleach of Wexford County Council” and he also felt “duty bound to report it to the Chief Executive Tom Enright”.
In January, the Standards in Public Office Commission heavily criticised Mr. Enright for raising the issue of advertising spend during a dispute over coverage of the Council by the radio station in 2019. SIPO said Mr. Enright “recklessly” contravened the Local Government Act and “in doing so brought his position into disrepute”.
The Cathaoirleach, Barbara Anne Murphy says “she is in the process of exercising her statutory obligation to consider what action, if any, should be taken against Mr. Minogue under section 174 of the Local Government Act”.
The Act allows for an investigative or disciplinary procedure, the referral of the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions, or another course of action which might be considered appropriate.