Case studies archive

Here is an archive of some of the older investigations at the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate.

Case study 1: Campaign donations

After the elections held on 28 November 2008, five candidates from five different councils failed to lodge a campaign donation return form resulting in investigations by the Inspectorate.

Section 62 of the Local Government Act 1989 requires candidates standing for election to provide a campaign donation return form within 60 days of the election date to the council CEO disclosing all donations valued at $200 or above. (The donation value required to be disclosed increased on 24 September 2010 to $500 or above).

Candidates are required to identify donations used for or in connection with election campaigns for transparency and to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

All candidates standing in the November 2008 elections were required to submit their campaign donation return forms by 28 January 2009 however, five failed to do so despite receiving reminders in writing, therefore breaching the Act.

Breaching this section of the act is a prosecutable offence and carried a penalty of up to $5481 per breach. (Since this information was recorded the value of a penalty unit has changed to $151.67).

The Inspectorate contacted each candidate to address the breach. The individual circumstance of each matter was different resulting in varying outcomes.

One candidate was found guilty of the offence without a conviction being recorded, was ordered to pay a fine and submit their completed campaign donation return form. Three cases were handled through the Criminal Justice Diversion Program where the candidates acknowledged their breach. Candidates had no conviction recorded but were ordered to pay an amount to the court, submit a written apology and submit their completed campaign donation return forms within specified timeframes.

Diversion was attempted with the fifth candidate however, the candidate's failure to meet the diversion requirements led to court proceedings. This resulted in a finding of guilt without conviction, a significantly increased amount to pay in costs and the requirement to submit their completed campaign donation return form within specified timeframes.

Case study 2: Ballarat City Council

An audit can often be seen as a daunting process by many local councils. However, it can be a constructive, informative and useful process to help councils improve a broad range of business areas, particularly in being compliant with the Act.

The relationship built between Ballarat City Council and the Inspectorate has been an excellent example of working together towards a common goal. The Inspectorate team worked with Ballarat to complete the audit in mid-2010. Ballarat was eager to ensure that all business areas of the council were compliant with the relevant guidelines.

The audit process provided the council with the opportunity to obtain experienced, independent advice regarding processes and compliance with the Act.

Overall the process resulted in practical outcomes for the council, helping it to work on areas of its business to ensure compliance into the future.

Case study 3: Muto misconduct

Former Greater Shepparton City Councillor, Milvan Muto, was found guilty of perverting the course of justice in the County Court on 22 May 2014. Councillor Milvan Muto was sentenced to eight month’s imprisonment.

Following that Councillor Muto was then disqualified from being a councillor for seven years, in accordance with section 29(2) of the Act.

A new councillor was elected to fill the extraordinary vacancy at Greater Shepparton City Council after a count back was held on 23 June 2014.

Prior to the matter appearing before the County Court, Councillor Muto was disqualified from serving as a councillor for four years by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for gross misconduct.

The finding was followed by an investigation by the Inspectorate that resulted in an application to VCAT under section 81E of the Act.

Councillor Muto then appealed the VCAT decision to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court dismissed Mr Muto's application to appeal the VCAT decision as there was insufficient grounds.

Case study 4: Tran Siu

On 5 September 2011, more than two years after the initial allegation, former Brimbank Councillor Tran Siu pleaded guilty in Sunshine Magistrates' Court to printing and distributing an unregistered how-to-vote card and providing false or misleading information to the Inspectorate. The offences were breaches of section 56 and 223C of the Act respectively. Councillor Siu had initially pleaded not guilty but, in the face of compelling evidence, changed his plea to guilty.

The investigation process was lengthy and involved sourcing expertise from the Australian Federal Police and an international agency to gather conclusive evidence that proved Councillor Siu had in fact ordered and paid for the printing of 8000 copies of the unregistered card.

Statistics provided by the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) showed 95% of individuals who voted for Councillor Siu followed the preferences on the unregistered how-to-vote card, strongly suggesting it had influenced voting patterns and assisted Councillor Siu's election to council.

The conviction means Councillor Siu is banned from standing for council or federal parliament, or from becoming a company director for seven years. He was also ordered to pay $11,500 in fines and costs.