Council members ‘remained in the dark’ over PSNI search for Middle East and Antrim Council offices


Middle East Antrim Council

City council members said they were “remained in the dark” due to a police search of council headquarters to investigate suspected misconduct in a public office.

The operation took place in the offices of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council in Balimina last Tuesday, but only came to light after this week’s Belfast Live report.

This followed an earlier raid on the police headquarters in October last year, during which equipment, computers and documents were reported to have been confiscated.

The Middle East and East Counter-Terrorism Council has faced several months of controversy, including allegations of bullying and a shortage of senior staff.

City councilors blamed local authorities for “the veil of secrecy” and said they first learned of the latest search on Monday night.

Coalition counsel Danny Donnelly said he expected the council to brief them on the police operation.

He added: “I think this is a somewhat shameful way of dealing with elected members. They clearly have a duty to inform us.

“Obviously we are in the dark.”

“Our group leader is now writing to the interim CEO to express our dissatisfaction with this and ask why they haven’t contacted us,” he added.

Sinn Fein’s adviser, James McCain, said there was “a shroud of secrecy in the whole case”.

“I think that given the situation in the council and its importance, council members should have been informed in no way that the raid took place,” he said.

Eugene Reed, an advisor to the SDLP, said he was seeking explanation from council officials.

He said: “It is a deep disappointment that our House is once again embroiled in a scandal and that the first elected representatives found out about it through the media.

“I had hoped since the last time we passed this council that openness and transparency would now be the basis of everything we do, but it doesn’t seem like that yet.”

The board declined to answer questions about whether advisors had been informed of the latest research.

“The Board of Directors can confirm that PSNI was present at Braid last Tuesday night,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“This was planned in advance as part of an additional investigation and the council will continue to support and assist the police in every possible way,” he added.

A PSNI spokesperson said: “Investigators from the Criminal Investigations Branch visited the Bridge Street Building in Balimina on the evening of April 5 as part of the ongoing investigation into suspected public service crimes under the Freedom of Information Act of 2000.

“Since this is an ongoing investigation, it would not be appropriate to provide further comments at this time.”

Controversy escalated surrounding the board of directors over a controversial decision last year to lay off staff who were conducting Brexit-related checks over alleged security concerns from Port Larney.

Chief Executive Anne Donahoe has been criticized for a controversial letter she sent to the UK government on the advice of three Democratic Federalist lawmakers, which raised concerns about the Northern Ireland protocol.

According to the BBC Spotlight investigation, the police investigation is linked to alleged attempts to delete the requested information based on information showing that they sent this message to several DUP politicians.

As is known, police investigations have been expanded to include other cases, including the alleged bankruptcy of the city council through publicly disclosed information about the costs of clothing the former DUP mayor.

Ms. Donaghy was released in December during a separate investigation into allegations of bullying and harassment. He categorically denied any wrongdoing and took legal action against the board of directors, alleging discrimination.

The new CEO was appointed in February for 601,060 per day, but resigned after three weeks due to health issues.

Source: Belfastlive


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