Case study 1: Conflict of interest
Inspectorate vs Mornington Peninsula Councillor Graham Pittock
In August 2014 at the Frankston Magistrates Court, Mornington Peninsula Shire Councillor Graham Pittock was found guilty on two counts of conflict of interest for voting on the Southern Peninsula Aquatic Centre while operating his Tonic Centre squash and gym business in Dromana.
The Southern Peninsula Aquatic Centre, which was to be built on the Rosebud Foreshore, was intended to include a gymnasium. Councillor Pittock’s Tonic Centre was approximately 10km away in Dromana. Councillor Pittock was fined $4000 and ordered to pay costs to the Inspectorate.
The decision serves notice to all councillors in Victoria that the courts are not prepared to accept conflicts between their civic duties and their private interests.
Case study 2: Misuse of position
Inspectorate vs Moonee Valley Councillor Paul Giuliano
In December 2012, Councillor Paul Giuliano pleaded guilty to misuse of position at the Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court regarding a decision he made about Moonee Valley Council business without first obtaining a resolution of council.
Councillor Giuliano was found to have approved a variation to the CEO’s employment contract, which increased his salary by 5% without the knowledge, or by a resolution of council. Section 76D of the Act (misuse of position) makes it clear that councillors cannot act alone.
During the investigation, it was also revealed that Councillor Giuliano had previously made decisions without a resolution of council, including changes to the CEO’s contract, increasing an employee’s salary without performance reviews and approving the conversion of 50 days of sick leave into a cash payment, which cost the Moonee Valley ratepayers over $22,000.
These matters were detected after prosecution time limits had expired.
Councillor Giuliano was placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond without conviction and ordered to pay $6000 in fines and court costs.
Case study 3:
Inspectorate vs Central Goldfields Shire Councillor Ian Robertson
Former Central Goldfields Shire Councillor Ian Robertson was charged with two offences in relation to breaches of conflict of interest provision of the Act in relation to a road upgrade affecting his properties.
The matter was heard on 22 August 2012 at Maryborough Magistrates Court. Both charges were proven and Councillor Robertson was found guilty and was placed on a good behaviour for a period of 12 months, ordered to pay $4000 to Maryborough Hospital (as a donation) and $20,000 for the Inspectorate’s legal cost.
Subsequently, Council paid the prosecution costs and Robertson's legal costs (approximately $70,000) with funds included in the council budget. Councillor Robertson voted on the budget but did not declare a conflict of interest.
This matter was then heard on 17 September 2015 at the Maryborough Magistrates Court and Councillor Robertson pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to declare a conflict of interest.
The charge was proven but no conviction was recorded or fine imposed.