Court fines former councillor for failing to declare interests

A former Benalla Shire Councillor has been ordered to pay $8,500 for failing to declare his personal interests in companies, land and trusts.

William van Wersch pleaded guilty to six charges related to personal interest return non-disclosures at Benalla Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

The charges were brought by the Local Government Inspectorate.

van Wersch, who unsuccessfully stood for re-election in 2020 after one term, was fined $5,000, without conviction, and ordered to pay legal costs of $3,500

The court heard that during his four-year term, van Wersch failed to submit two interest returns within the required timeframe.

Declaring personal interests is a requirement under Victoria’s Local Government Act.

He also failed to disclose a number of personal interests in five of his ordinary returns, including companies in which he held office or a beneficial interest, as well as land interests and trust interests.

The Inspectorate laid 18 charges against van Wersch related to the non-disclosures, which were reduced after the defendant’s offer of a guilty plea on six rolled-up charges.

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