A SPAT has erupted between two local Councillors in relation to an advert concerning Waterford City & County Council’s road works programme.
Cllr Eamon Quinlan (FF) recently purchased a full page advert in a local newspaper welcoming the Council’s road works programme for 2018 and detailing funding provisions. At the March Metropolitan District meeting of Waterford City & County Council, Cllr John Cummins (FG) sought information as to how Cllr Quinlan had obtained such information before other Councillors.
“I have no issue with Cllr Quinlan taking out a full page advert, good luck to him,” he said.
However, Cllr Cummins said the information contained in the advert was based on a previous version of the roads work programme which was ultimately different to that which was approved by Councillors and therefore contained inaccurate information.
“I want to know how a certain Councillor had that information when no other member had it,” he said.
“I think every member in this Chamber deserves an answer.”
Cllr Cummins said 90 per cent of the information was the same as that which was approved.
However, he said “inaccurate information” had been put into the public domain, specifically in relation to the Ursuline Court area.
He said other Councillors only obtained the information 25-35 minutes before a recent Council meeting at which the roads works programme was discussed.
However, Cllr Cummins said it appeared as though Cllr Quinlan had this information in advance.
Cllr Joe Conway (Ind), who was deputising for the Metropolitan Mayor Cllr Sean Reinhardt (Ind), observed that Cllr Quinlan was not present at the meeting.
He suggested that the topic could be deferred.
Conor O’Neill, Senior Executive Engineer (Roads) with Waterford City & County Council, said that the only person who could answer Cllr Cummins is Cllr Quinlan.
However, Cllr Cummins continued to press for information from the Council Executive as Cllr Quinlan didn’t “magically” come up with the information.
“Keith Barry couldn’t do that. He got it from somewhere,” he said.
Cllr Conway said he didn’t see how the issue was going to be resolved at that meeting.
However, Cllr Cummins persisted, saying: “I’ve asked the question, the Executive know the answer, and the Chamber deserves to hear it.”
Cllr Cummins then proceeded to read an email from his phone which he had received from Director of Services (Roads) Fergus Galvin in relation to the issue.
In the email, Mr Galvin informed Cllr Cummins he had discussed the matter with staff members in order to ascertain how Cllr Quinlan came to have a draft version of the Metropolitan District road works programme for 2018.
He explained that Cllr Quinlan had requested and was given a copy of the draft programme during a visit to the office while making representations in respect of the road works programme.
“It was made clear at the time that the document was a working draft and had not been approved by the Senior Engineer and Director and was not for circulation,” said Mr Galvin. “Notwithstanding that the document should not have been given to a Councillor in advance of its distribution to the remainder of the Council.”
Mr Galvin said he apologised on behalf of the roads department and has taken steps to ensure such an incident would not happen again.
Asked for a comment on the issue, Cllr Quinlan, who was not in attendance at last week’s meeting, told The Munster Express that the advert Cllr Cummins referred to had appeared two days after the roads information was released into the public realm.
“I inform my constituents every year of our works programme,” he said.
“I and all Councillors are aware that changes occur to the agreed programme several times a year, each year, as projects cost more than anticipated and other emergency, non-planned works force us to postpone agreed projects. With Storm Ophelia and Storm Emma impacting our budget, I expect even further changes to the agreed programme this year.”He added: “If there is any particular project in Cllr Cummins’ area that he wishes to see delivered for his constituents, then my advice is to work with his colleagues in the chamber to have them delivered, as we all do. Improving constituents’ quality of life beats trying to play the blame game, every time.”