A LONDONDERRY community group’s failure to publically advertise a job temporarily given to Sinn Féin Councillor Elisha McCallion back in 2008 was deemed unacceptable by the Department of Social Development (DSD), the Sentinel can reveal.
Former Sinn Féin Mayor Cathal Crumley wrote to the Department in February 2008 regarding the “temporary appointment of Miss Elisha McLaughlin” to the position of finance administrator with the Galliagh Development Trust (GDT) of which he was then the Project Manager.
In the letter, which has been obtained by the Sentinel, Mr Crumley explained that the appointment had been made in line with the directions of DSD and with the approval of the Labour Relations Agency (LRA).
According to Mr Crumley the decision to appoint Mrs McCallion to the position followed “an informal process whereby we scanned the local area and found that their was a number of candidates with the ability and qualifications for the Job.”
He wrote that “we offered each person to come and have an informal discussion with myself and the Chairman and on the day we found that the only candidate to come forward was Miss Elisha McLaughlin.”
DSD have confirmed to the Sentinel that Mrs McCallion’s appointment to the position on a temporary basis was acceptable to the Department as a stop-gap measure.
A spokesman told the paper: “In this case, the Galliagh Development Trust was faced with a temporary vacancy due to the departure of the previous employee. At that time, the group’s funding was only secured until the end of March 2008.
“In the circumstances, the Department considered that the solution proposed by the Galliagh Development Trust was acceptable as a temporary short-term solution to filling the post while the funding position was clarified.
“The Department took some assurance from the Labour Relations Agency’s view that the approach was acceptable.”
However, at this time funding for Neighbourhood Renewal was being reviewed across Northern Ireland and DSD said it was not possible to complete this exercise by the end of March 2008.
The spokesman went on to explain that the Minister at the time decided to extend all current funding contracts until the end of August 2008 while the review was finished and GDT subsequently had a new round of funding for its project confirmed up to March 21, 2011.
But it was just over two years ago that DSD says it discovered that the post held by Mrs McCallion was not adverstised in 2008 and that she had continued in the post until May 2010.
“Through checks carried out in June 2010 by the Department, it was discovered that the post had not been advertised in 2008 as promised by Galliagh Development Trust and the temporary employee appointed had remained in post until she resigned from her job in May 2010.
“The Trust claimed to have written to the Department in January 2009 regarding its intentions at that time in relation to the post and post holder and produced a copy of the letter. The Department has no record of having received this letter in 2009,” the DSD spokesman stated.
At this point DSD sent a formal letter to Galliagh Development Trust advising the failure to advertise the post was unacceptable to the Department.
“In June 2010, the Department issued a formal letter to the Galliagh Development Trust stating that the failure to advertise the post in 2008 when further funding had been confirmed was not acceptable to the Department.
“However, as Ms McLaughlin had already resigned, the Department decided to take no further action other than to remind the group of the requirement to advertise all posts publicly in the future.
“A further recruitment process took place in 2010 which was closely monitored and overseen by DSD staff,” the spokesperson stated.
DSD says that community groups are bound by the same Fair Employment legislation as every other employer.
“The Department’s grant funding procedures require any grant funded posts to be advertised through a Jobs and Benefits Office as a minimum. While there is no legal or procedural requirement for community organisations to advertise posts in the local press, there may be occasions when advertising the post is considered the most appropriate method to recruit a suitably qualified person. This would be the case if particular skills or experience were needed, the spokesman told the paper.
The Sentinel contacted Mr Crumley and Mrs McCallion regarding the job apppointment process. Both Mr Crumley and Mrs McCallion declined the opportunity to comment.