By Paul Hemsley and Julian Bajkowski
The mayor of Sydney’s City of Ryde, Ivan Petch, and other five councillors are facing a public inquiry by the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) as part of investigations into allegations of a raft of dodgy and improper activities.
A statement issued by the ICAC on Monday said that the corruption watchdog was looking into allegations involving Mr Petch related to the “release of confidential council information on many occasions, and for various reasons including in an attempt to undermine council employees, such as the former General Manager, Mr John Neish.”
The latest ICAC investigation is another unwanted scandal for the NSW branch of the Labor Party that was this month placed into administration by the party’s national executive by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in an attempt to amputate corruption-prone elements that have badly damaged the party’s standing in the electorate.
It follows an ongoing ICAC probe into the activities of former Labor state minister and kingmaker Eddie Obeid and former NSW resources minister Ian Macdonald who have now been expelled from the party.
The latest investigation into allegations involving the councillors at the City of Ryde, code-named ‘Operation Cavill’, have already had repercussions in Canberra after Labor dumped it’s candidate for the federal seat of Bennelong, Councillor Jeff Salvestro-Martin, ahead of him giving evidence at the ICAC public hearing.
According to ICAC’s statement it is investigating whether Cr Petch and City of Ryde councillors Victor Tagg, Jeffrey Salvestro-Martin, Terry Perram, Michael Butterworth and Justin Li “received undisclosed political donations in the form of election advertising in the lead up to the September 2012 local government elections.”
The corruption watchdog said that it will also investigate “allegations that Cr Petch has failed to disclose financial relationships and potential conflicts of interest while serving as a councillor on the City of Ryde Council.”
The ICAC is also investigating “an allegation that a corrupt offer was made to City of Ryde Councillor Bill Pickering by an employee of a local newspaper, The Weekly Times, to persuade Cr Pickering to support a development application.”
The scope of the ICAC’s investigations and the high levels of public attention will do little to boost public confidence in local government in NSW ahead of a referendum on whether to provide financial recognition to the sector through an amendment to the Constitution.
The referendum had been scheduled to take place in conjunction with the federal poll on September 14th, however that date has been subsequently put in limbo following the replacement of Julia Gillard by Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister.
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