herald

Thursday 22 August 2019

Casey repays €1,875 election expenses for TV training after vote

Former Dragons’ Den star Peter Casey has apologised
Former Dragons’ Den star Peter Casey has apologised

Controversial presidential candidate Peter Casey claimed €1,875 in election expenses for communications training he got after polling day, the Herald can reveal.

The training was carried out by the business owned by PR expert Theresa Lowe, the sister of one of Mr Casey's rivals for the presidency, Independent senator Joan Freeman.

It took place five days after the election on October 26, ahead of his appearance on The Late Late Show.

Mr Casey said last night that an error was made by a campaign staff member and an invoice for the training was sent to the election watchdog that "should not have been".

Apologised

He said he had repaid the cash and has apologised.

Former Dragons' Den star Mr Casey finished a surprise second in the race for Aras an Uachtarain after a campaign in which he was criticised for his views on Travellers.

Due to his share of the vote, Mr Casey is the only candidate other than the winner, Michael D Higgins, to qualify for any reimbursement of expenses.

Candidates are entitled to reimbursements of up to €200,000 if they exceed a quarter of the quota of votes for getting elected.

The Independent candidate disclosed election expenses of €119,911 to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) and got a full reimbursement.

Mr Casey's expenses statement to Sipo lists €1,875 in training provided by Theresa Lowe Communications.

When contacted by the Herald, Ms Lowe said she provided Mr Casey with communications training on November 1 and 2 last year, "specifically for his appearance on The Late Late Show".

She said he had asked her to train him for the presidential campaign, but she declined.

"While I wasn't involved in my sister's campaign, it would nonetheless have been inappropriate to train an opposing candidate," Ms Lowe said.

"Once the election was over, there was no longer a conflict."

Sipo refused to comment on any individual's compliance with the election rules when asked about Mr Casey's expenses claim.

Excess

The watchdog confirmed spending on "property, goods or services used outside the election period cannot be claimed as election expenses".

The election period was defined by Sipo as August 28 to October 26, 2018.

The Herald asked Mr Casey last night why the training was included as an election expense and if he would pay the money back to the State.

He said Sipo contacted his campaign manager last week as it had a query on an item that had been reimbursed to the campaign that appeared to be outside the dates of eligibility.

He said his manager asked for an immediate audit of all expenses to be carried out.

"The audit revealed there had indeed been an error made by one of my campaign staff and that an invoice was submitted that should not have been as the services were delivered outside the relevant dates," Mr Casey said.

"I contacted Sipo and informed them of this last week and we have already sent them reimbursement for the €1,875 and apologised.

"The audit also revealed there were in excess of an additional €5,000 expenses that could have been claimed that was not.

"While I was not personally involved in the preparation of the expenses submission, in hindsight I should have been more diligent and accept full responsibility for the error that was made."

Mr Casey said he had used Ms Lowe's company for media training for several years and had not been aware she was Ms Freeman's sister when he had asked her to provide training for the campaign.

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