Project manager must pay $65,000 for faking documents

A project manager who provided fraudulent development documents to Wollongong City Council will have to fork out $65,000 after being fined in the NSW Land and Environment Court.

Kate McMullen was tasked by development company Arcadis with ensuring compliance with Council’s requirements for a residential land development at an Illawarra site owned by Stockland Development, which contained asbestos and other materials.

McMullen admitted to her manager in May 2018 that “during an extended moment of panic” she made the decision to “fraudulently prepare two documents, being a site validation report and site audit statement and submitted these to Council”.

She admitted to fraudulently creating the audit statement and forging a signature on it, and issuing bogus subdivision certificates, before the management or remediation of asbestos was verified.

McMullen pleaded guilty to supplying information she knew was false or misleading in February, and on July 10, Justice Pepper fined her $30,000 and ordered her to pay costs of $35,000.

Her employment with Arcadis has been terminated.

Erosion of regulatory safeguards

Court documents show McMullen said she felt overworked and was worried about meeting deadlines and failing at her job.

But the offence had “eroded the fabric of the regulatory canvas” designed to protect the environment and human health, Justice Pepper said.

It also “(impaired) the ability of the regulatory authorities to maintain appropriate standards of auditing and to manage contaminated land in accordance with principles of ecologically sustainable development,” the judge said.

The EPA, which prosecuted McMullen, said in a statement it understood that a legitimate site audit statement was later issued which found the site suitable for its proposed purpose.

Wollongong Council said it acted as soon as alarm bells were raised and “proactively looked into the potential possibility that fraudulent documents had been submitted”.

Council also assisted the EPA in investigations.

“While fraud can occur, we and our community rely upon the integrity and honesty of the consultants and project managers in the industry,” a spokesperson told Governent News“.

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