Political news

Council chief said DUP councillor's drink-driving 'doesn't bring council into disrepute'

Suspended DUP councillor Thomas Hogg
Brendan Hughes

SINN Féin has questioned why a council chief executive said she did not believe a DUP councillor's drink-driving conviction brought the local authority into disrepute.

Former Antrim and Newtownabbey mayor Thomas Hogg was last week given a five-month council suspension by a standards watchdog following a conviction last year for drink-driving.

Jacqui Dixon, chief executive of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, provided a statement as part of the commissioner's probe.

The commissioner's report said Ms Dixon "stated that she did not consider that Councillor Hogg's conviction brought the council into disrepute or impacted on the operation of the council".

Sinn Féin councillor Michael Goodman expressed surprise at the chief executive's reported position.

He said that "obviously drink-driving is an extremely serious offence, so it's surprising that any council officer would comment in this way".

A council spokeswoman said the commissioner's summary of Ms Dixon's statement is "very brief and does not include the context in which this statement was made".

She said the conviction had no impact on council operations, media attention related to the councillor rather than the council, and the chief executive received no formal complaints.

"Sinn Féin has not raised any issues with or asked for any clarity from the chief executive regarding her statement," she added.

Mr Hogg last week said he accepted his suspension and was "deeply sorry" for his behaviour.

The sanction does not prevent the former Antrim and Newtownabbey mayor from contesting May's council elections.

Last year Alliance councillor Patrick Brown was given a six-month suspension, which ended last month, due to a drink-driving conviction.

The Irish News yesterday revealed that the standards commissioner in December warned Mr Brown he could face legal action for contempt following claims he was breaching his suspension by continuing to act as a councillor – claims Mr Brown denied.

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