NSW Governor Marie Bashir has dismissed embattled Wollongong City Council following a recommendation from the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
NSW Local Government Minister Paul Lynch met the Governor yesterday to formally complete the dismissal.
Minister Lynch told the Sydney Morning Herald that the government decision came after receiving the commission’s recommendation in writing.
"Sacking councils is absolutely the last thing I want to do but when you’ve got no option, you’ve got no option," he said.
In part one of its report on corruption allegations affecting Wollongong City Council, the ICAC recommended that “all civic offices in relation to Wollongong City Council be declared vacant”.
“Having considered the evidence of Councillors Zanotto, Gigliotti, Esen and Janovski, and the other evidence available to the Commission concerning their conduct, the Commission is of the opinion that their conduct makes it clear that systemic corruption exists within Wollongong City Council,” the report said.
“Although all four councillors have taken leave of absence they would be able to return to their duties as councillors at any time. Given this fact and the evidence before the Commission the Commission considers that prompt action is required in the public interest.”
Minister Lynch said is not possible to allow a new Wollongong Council to be formed after local government elections in September.
"Anyone who suggests that an issue of systemic corruption can be resolved within six months is, I think fooling themselves," he told the Herald.
Prior to the dismissal, the Local Government and Shires Association of NSW said Wollongong residents have a right to elect a council at this year’s local government elections regardless of whether the current council is sacked.
"Councillors represent the interests of their community – they know their neighbours and understand local needs and issues. As such it is crucial democracy is maintained in Wollongong," President of the Local Government Association of NSW, Cr Genia McCaffery said.
"As we have seen, public officials across all spheres of Government are prone to perceptions of conflict of interest.
"Sacking councils will not remove the possibility of influence. The solution is the tightening of the rules and regulations governing political donations – as long as they are applied to public officials at all levels.”
An administration panel will be appointed to run the council for four years.
Earlier this week, Port Macquarie-Hastings Council was dismissed, due to the financial mismanagement and the cost blowout of a local entertainment centre.
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