CAUSEWAY Coast and Glens Council has heard claims officers were “conned” and “hoodwinked” into sponsoring a business engagement that turned out to be a fundraiser for the DUP.
The allegations were made during a special meeting convened to discuss the £1500 of ratepayers cash spent on a dinner organised by North Antrim MP Ian Paisley at Ballymena's Tullyglass Hotel.
Billed as a “community and business engagement dinner”, the council has insisted the occasion was a valuable networking opportunity for guests and a chance to question Westminster Environment Secretary, Michael Gove on issues surrounding Brexit.
However, it's since emerged that sponsorship of a table by a second council – Mid and Est Antrim - is being treated as a ‘donation’ to the North Antrim MP by the Electoral Commission.
Both councils’ contributions are now the subject of an investigation.
Meanwhile, at Monday’s meeting several councillors suggested there was plenty of evidence to suggest the event was a fundraiser.
And the UUP’s Norman Hillis said the episode had caused “widespread reputational damage” to Causeway Coast and Glens.
He suggested £150-per-head price tag should have rung alarm bells, as should the presence of envelopes on tables.
“All the evidence seems to show that this was some sort of fundraiser,” he added.
“I don't think officers were in any way complicit, but I do feel that somewhere along the way they were misled or conned into attending.”
See this week's paper for full story.