Belfast Telegraph

DUP MLA Trevor Clarke's constituency staff investigated over conflict of interest claims

Trevor and Linda Clarke.
Trevor and Linda Clarke.
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Constituency office staff of DUP MLA Trevor Clarke are being investigated by the standards commissioner over claims of "conflicts of interests," it has emerged.

It is understood complaints were made to the Local Government Commissioner for Standards concerning Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey John Smyth and his fellow DUP councillor Jeannie Archibald.

The complaint is believed to be in relation to allegations made against Mr Clarke's involvement in a business lobbying on behalf of planning applicants.

The latest development comes after the Irish News reported Mr Clarke's wife Linda, also a DUP representative on the council, was involved in decisions which awarded thousands to her son's printing business.

When contacted by the Belfast Telegraph Mayor Smyth and Councillor Archibald said they were not aware of the allegations against them.

Mr Clarke also said he was not aware that his staff had been accused of any wrongdoing.

However, a DUP spokesman said that the party was aware of the investigation and wanted to allow the commissioner's office to carry out its investigation.

He said the party would be making no comment while the investigation was ongoing.

Councillor Archibald said that as far as she knew she had "done nothing wrong".

"I have declared everything I believe that I needed to and I have sought advice and been told that this was the case," the DUP councillor said.

"I am surprised that a complaint has been put in, whoever the person is seems to be coming after all of us.

"I'm happy for the complaint to be investigated and if it's found that I've done wrong I will accept it."

The Local Government Commissioner for Standards confirmed that complaints had been made against two councillors.

"We have received a complaint that two councillors in the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council breached the Code of Conduct in relation to conflicts of interests. The complaint is now being assessed," a spokesperson said.

Mr Clarke is a partner in Versatile Consultancy, which represents applicants in the council planning process.

The firm has been involved in several planning applications in the Antrim area and it has been reported that Mr Clarke spoke in favour of one of the applications in March when it came before a council planning committee.

Mr Clarke told the Belfast Telegraph that he did not speak on behalf of the application as an MLA but as a private individual on a commercial basis and confirmed that he has declared Versatile Consultancy on his Stormont register of interests.

He said he would refer the issue to the respective ombudsmen and accept the findings of any investigation.

On Tuesday the Irish News reported that Linda Clarke was involved in giving more than £4,500 in council contracts to a printing firm run by her son.

Mrs Clarke has also been the subject of a complaint to the standards commissioner over alleged conflicts of interest in the planning process.

AC Print, run by the Clarke's son, was given public money to create virtual graphics for shop fronts and buildings in Randalstown and was also awarded over £250 for the printing of Christmas flyers.

Mrs Clarke told the Belfast Telegraph she would not be commenting on the matter.

A DUP spokesman said that Mrs Clarke had already referred the matter to the Local Government Commissioner for Standards and was "happy for that office to carry out its work".

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