ICAC slams ex-council figures
The NSW corruption watchdog has found former council staff and councillors have engaged in serious corrupt conduct.
The state’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has found former Canterbury City Council general manager Jim Montague was pressured by former councillors Michael Hawatt and Pierre Azzi into making Spiro Stavis director of city planning, allowing them to influence his decisions.
The commission said that Mr Monatgue did not consider Mr Stavis the best person for the job, but he “he improperly allowed himself to be influenced by pressure from Mr Hawatt and Mr Azzi”, including an offer of 20 weeks salary.
Additionally, the councillors showed Mr Stavis his job interview questions in advance.
Mr Stavis, Mr Hawatt and Mr Azzi were found to have engaged in serious corrupt conduct in relation to planning proposals, and failed to disclose their relationships with developers when voting on development applications.
Mr Hawatt was also found to have used his position as a councillor to encourage development applications involving his daughter and son in law.
Mr Stavis doctored a draft planning proposal submitted to council’s development committee to get rid of critical material.
All of the activities occurred between 2014 and 2016.
“Corrupt planning decisions at the Council were a consequence of both underlying integrity issues and poor controls, and a NSW planning system that lacks effective anti-corruption safeguards,” the NSW ICAC states.
“Corrupt planning decisions at the Council were a consequence of both underlying integrity issues and poor controls, and a NSW planning system that lacks effective anti-corruption safeguards,” the commission found.
The ICAC has made 23 recommendations for change, including a call to extend the Lobbying of Government Officials (LOGO) Act.
“The lobbying activities exposed during the investigation suggest a change in the complexity of the local government lobbying landscape,” the report says.
“The Commission is satisfied that there are corruption risks inherent in lobbying in local government such that the LOGO Act should be extended to local government.”
The corruption watchdog also said that the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) should issue guidelines to increase transparency when councillors are being lobbied.
The matter has been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to decide whether criminal charges should be laid.
This includes an assessment of whether former NSW MP Daryl Maguire misled ICAC while giving evidence about his involvement with Mr Hawatt and a potential business deal.
The ICAC recommends charges including blackmail and corruptly offering a benefit against Mr Hawatt and Mr Azzi, and misconduct in public office against Mr Stavis.