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The Alleged Contraventions

The issues to be determined by the Commission were whether Councillor Quinn contravened the Local Government Act 2001 as set out in the fourteen contraventions in the Statement of Alleged Contraventions (Appendix 1).

The evidence has established that Councillor Quinn and his three brothers and two sisters are the owners of substantial office buildings at 84-93 Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2. The premises are currently let under a lease to the Office of the Revenue Commissioners which lease expires in 2016.

Councillor Quinn is a member of Dublin City Council, having first been elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2009.

On 12 October 2009, the proposed Draft Dublin City Development Plan was circulated to members of Dublin City Council. The members of the City Council were summoned to a special meeting of the Council on 25 November 2009 to debate motions in relation to the Plan and because of the number of motions on the agenda, the meeting was adjourned to 2 December 2009 when the Draft Development Plan was agreed.

This Draft Development Plan was then put on public display; submissions were sought and received which were then considered by the City Council. After a number of meetings at which proposed amendments to the Plan were considered, Dublin City Council adopted the Draft Development Plan on 22 December 2010.

This complaint by Councillor Cieran Perry and Mr Michael Smith relates to the actions of Councillor Quinn as a member of Dublin City Council and his participation in Council meetings that were held with a view to drawing up the Dublin City Development Plan 2011-2017. It was alleged that Councillor Quinn had a conflict of interest in relation to certain motions that he had submitted and supported.

The complaint relates to specific special meetings of the Council held on 2 December 2009 and on 28 July 2010.

In relation to motion 1063 on the agenda of the meeting of 2 December 2009, it is alleged, inter alia, that (a) Councillor Quinn proposed an amendment to motion 1063, contrary to section 177(1) of the Local Government Act 2001; (b) Councillor Quinn did not disclose an interest in the property at 84-93 Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2 contrary to section 177(1)(b)(i) of the Local Government Act 2001 and (c) Councillor Quinn did not withdraw from the meeting, contrary to section 177(1)(b)(ii) of the Local Government Act 2001.

In relation to the meeting on 28 July 2010, it is alleged, inter alia, that (a) Councillor Quinn submitted motion 2597, contrary to section 177(1) of the Local Government Act 2001 and (b) Councillor Quinn was involved in drawing up the composite motion on height/site coverage/plot ratio contrary to section 177(1) of the Local Government Act 2001.

Section 177(1) of the Local Government Act 2001 imposes an obligation on a member of a local authority, such as Dublin City Council, that where a resolution, motion, question or other matter is proposed or otherwise arises, then such member of the local authority present at the meeting where he or she has actual knowledge that he or she or a connected person has a pecuniary or other beneficial interest in or which is material to the matter: (i) to disclose the nature of his or her interest, or the fact of a connected person's interest at the meeting, and before discussion or consideration of the matter commences, and (ii) to withdraw from the meeting for so long as the matter is being discussed or considered, and, accordingly, he or she shall take no part in the discussion or consideration of the matter and shall refrain from voting in relation to it.

The test to be applied by a councillor is not just what he or she might think, but rather what a member of the public, knowing the facts of the situation would reasonably think as to whether the interest concerned might influence the person in the performance of his or her functions. If so, disclosure should follow and a councillor should withdraw from consideration of the matter. In this context, it is important to ensure that as well as the avoidance of actual impropriety, occasions of suspicion and appearance of improper conduct are also avoided in case of private and personal interests.

In relation to the meeting of Dublin City Council on 28 July 2010, according to statements made by each of the following, Councillor Quinn spoke to the Dublin City Manager, Mr John Tierney, before the meeting, to the Law Agent, Mr Terence O'Keeffe, to the Assistant City Manager, Mr Michael Stubbs, to the Executive Manager, Jim Keogan and to the Meetings Administrator, Ms Oonagh Casey about his interest in the office buildings at 84-93 Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2. He does not appear to have disclosed to these persons the interest in the Lower Mount Street premises of his brothers and sisters.

Mr Tierney states that in considering the matter, he, Mr Keogan and Mr Stubbs examined the motion in question and the maps prepared by the Planning Department which showed the extent of the area referred to in the motion, having regard to Councillor Quinn's interest in the Mount Street property. The Manager and his officials were of the view that Councillor Quinn's interest in the property was remote to the motion and was not sufficient to warrant his withdrawal from the debate and to prevent him from voting on any motion.

Mr Terence O'Keeffe, Law Agent, states that Councillor Quinn phoned him prior to the meeting and explained that he had a one-sixth interest in office buildings in Lower Mount St. The advice proffered by the Law Agent was that interests in the premises were not sufficient to warrant his withdrawal and not voting in any motion in relation to the height of office buildings, etc.

The statement from Ms Oonagh Casey states that she spoke to Councillor Quinn before the meeting and that he explained to her his problem in relation to an interest he had in a property within the City boundaries. He asked her whether he should make the City Council aware of his interest and she said yes, that it is always better to be completely transparent at all times. Councillor Quinn made his declaration at the beginning of the meeting, even though she informed him that there were no motions on the agenda that would be relevant or would impact on the Lower Mount Street property.

It is also significant that the advice given to Councillor Quinn in relation to his interest in the property in Lower Mount Street was that his interest was remote to the motion.

Section 176(3)(a) of the Local Government Act 2001 provides:

"A person shall not be regarded as having a beneficial interest which has to be disclosed under this Part... because of an interest which is so remote or insignificant that it cannot be reasonably regarded as likely to influence a person in considering or discussing, or in voting on, any question with respect to that matter or in performing any function in relation to that matter..."

Accordingly, the test to be applied is not whether an interest is remote, but whether the interest is so remote or insignificant that it cannot be reasonably be regarded as likely to influence Councillor Quinn in considering or discussing or voting on any question or in performing any function in relation to the matter.

The members of the Commission, having considered the matter and knowing the facts of the situation, are satisfied that the interest of Councillor Quinn and the connected persons in the property in Lower Mount Street could not be regarded as so remote or insignificant that it could not be reasonably regarded as unlikely to influence Councillor Quinn in considering or discussing or in voting or in performing any function in relation to the premises at Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2.