ICAC to investigate Burwood Council general manager

By Angela Dorizas

A council in inner-west Sydney has ordered its general manager to step-down from his duties pending the outcome of an ICAC investigation.

Burwood Council general manager Pat Romano will be the subject of a two-week ICAC public hearing into allegations that he used council staff and equipment to renovate a block of flats owned by his wife and the wife of Burwood Council’s chief architect, Albert Becerra.

Councillor Tony Fasanella from Canada Bay Council was also allegedly involved.

Following an extraordinary meeting last night, Burwood Council resolved that Mr Romano “will be formally directed in writing not to attend Council and not to perform the functions associated with the role of general manager pending the outcome of the public inquiry”.

Council’s director of planning, Ian Dencker, was appointed acting general manager.

Burwood Mayor John Sidoti said the council would continue to cooperate with the ICAC in its investigation.

“We resolved that while this investigation was taking place the right thing to do would be that Mr Romano's not associated in anyway with the day-to-day operations with the council,” Cr Sidoti told Government News.

Cr Sidoti said no action had been taken against Mr Becerra because he had not been identified by the ICAC as a subject of the investigation.

“All we know at this stage is that it’s revolving around the behaviour of the general manager, the conduct of the general manager,” he said.

“It may involve others, it may not.

“If ICAC identifies other parties or other people that have in anyway not followed the right protocols or have been involved in corrupt behaviour there is no doubt in my mind that we will act on the recommendations of the ICAC.”

Cr Sidoti said his greatest concern was that council was at risk of being “painted with the same brush”.

“It’s wrong, because firstly five out of seven councillors weren’t on that previous council – it’s actually a new council,” he said.

“The alleged behaviour of one individual could tarnish the whole establishment. I hope that wouldn’t be the case.”

He said the ICAC advised council not to proceed with a planned internal audit.

“The day we got wind of this we were going to have our own internal audit,” Cr Sidoti said.

“On the recommendation of the ICAC we backed away and they’ve taken over.”

The ICAC hearing will commence on March 22.

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