Corruption enquiry mayor seeks to clear his name

The mayor of the City of Cockburn Stephen Lee has said he will appeal the findings of a Corruption and Crime Commission investigation, which identified five incidents of misconduct and a failure to declare up to $40,000 of campaign donations.  

The report said Mr Lee’s campaign in the 2005 local government election cost more than $76,000, and received funds from a number of sources including the developers of the $700 million Port Coogee project.

“Mr Lee did not declare an interest affecting impartiality as required under the Local Government Act at four council meetings in 2005 and 2006 during which Port Coogee was considered,” the report said.

“His conduct was not inadvertent nor was it an isolated occurrence. It was deliberate conduct engaged in over a period of time for a reason.”

Mr Lee applied for paid leave and said he would pursue an external review to validate the findings of the report through the WA parliamentary inspector.

“I believe that only a fair and independent review of the CCC findings will enable me to clear my name and restore my reputation. I maintain the findings are an inaccurate portrayal of my involvement in the events associated with them,” he said.

“Let me assure everyone within the Cockburn community that everything I do and stand for has and will continue to be done in the best long-term interests of the City of Cockburn.” 

While welcoming Mr Lee’s decision to temporarily step down from all positions, WA Local Government Minister John Castrilli said there were no current plans to sack the council.

“Any council throughout Western Australia, if the good governance of that council is in question or (sic) that would give me the opportunity to dismiss that council and I will do so,” Mr Castrilli told ABC.

“Mr Lee’s decision to stand down and stand aside as mayor allows him to pursue his rights of ‘natural justice’.

“Importantly, the concerned Cockburn community can be assured that Mr Lee’s hands have been effectively removed from the levers of power pending any investigation by the parliamentary inspector,” he said.

The council said Mr Lee would not have access to the council’s resources during his leave period and no advance financial support would be provided in relation to the proposed review process.

Deputy mayor Kevin Allen has assumed the mayor’s role for civic duties.

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