Former mayor suspended over conflict of interest

A former Victorian mayor has been suspended for two months and banned from chairing council committees after a conduct panel found he had engaged in serious misconduct in relation to a planning application.

Jason Modica

During his one-year term as mayor in 2021 and 2022, Mildura councillor Jason Modica three times failed to declare a conflict of interest relating to his sister and a rural industry land use application, a Victorian Councillor Conduct Panel found.

A hearing on November 18 heard that Council received a planning application to use land for a stockyard panelling business. It appeared the applicant was already using the land for the business and was seeking retrospective approval.

The panel also found Cr Modica’s sister was operating a similar business across the road, and stood to benefit if the planning application was accepted.

Cr Modica failed disclose his sister’s interests or exclude himself from decision making three times when the application was discussed at council meetings, the panel heard.

Cr Modica told the inspectorate on March 22 last year that he didn’t know his sister was running a metal fabrication business.

However the following day he admitted he hadn’t been honest and had given a false statement. He also acknowledged he had a material and general conflict of interest.

The panel directed Cr Modica to apologise to Council and acknowledge his serious misconduct in failing to declare his conflict of interest.

It also determined that he should be suspended from office for two months and be ineligible to chair a delegated committee of the council until June 30.

“Councillors need to disclose conflicts of interest and remove themselves from making decisions where conflicts may arise,” Chief Municipal Inspector Michael Stefanovic said.

“This demonstrates that councillors, as well as senior staff and committee members, are not using their role to gain benefits for themselves or others.”

Yarriambiak given all clear

Meanwhile, in better news from the inspectorate, Yarriambiack Shire Council’s governance and culture was found to have significantly improved since the publication of a critical 2019 report into allegations about the misuse of community assets.

Mr Stefanovic said a 2022 visit found Yarriambiak had addressed each of the recommendations in the report.

“The Inspectorate visited the council to review documentation and interview staff as part of the latest governance examination,” he said in a statement.

“It was immediately clear that there had been positive change at the council leading to improved governance.  It was also noticeable that staff were far more invested in the organisation.”

Mr Stefanovic commended the council for properly resourcing governance and congratulated former CEO Jessie Holmes and current chief Tammy Smith.

He also noted Council had introduced an automated compliance tool as well as new human resources and finance systems.

 “As part of the culture change, we also found that where poor behaviour was identified within the council, this was called out without the fear of repercussion,” he said.

“The culture within the council now provides a clear pathway to deal with these issues, which wasn’t evident previously.”

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at  

Sign up to the Government News newsletter

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required