Cessnock Greens welcome ICAC investigation
THE state’s corruption watchdog has begun a ‘‘preliminary investigation’’ ofcorruption allegations made against some Cessnock City Councillors but any findings may not be known until after September’s council election.
The investigation was revealed during proceedings in the Supreme Court in Sydney yesterday, in the latest round of a bitter stoush that has pitted mayor Alison Davey and council general manager Lea Rosser against seven other councillors.
Justice John Hislop adjourned the hearing and continued an injunction preventing the seven from considering Ms Rosser’s job, pending the outcome of the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (ICAC) investigation.
The court was read part of a letter the ICAC sent to the council acting general manager Mike Brady last week, advising it would investigate whether the decision-making of councillors was being influenced by ‘‘private interests’’.
It would also examine whether moves by councillors to consider Ms Rosser’s job constituted ‘‘reprisal action’’ against a whistleblower.
But the court was told the ICAC investigation could take up to 120 days, meaning findings may not be made until just days after the council election in early September.
The injunction was initially granted in March, when the council, under instruction from Cr Davey, sought to head off a confidential motion from Cr Cordelia Burcham that called for Ms Rosser’s sacking.
The council argued any moves to sack Ms Rosser could be considered retaliatory action for making a disclosure of corruption.
Crs Burcham, Dale Troy, James Hawkins, Allan McCudden, Jeff Maybury, Neil Gorman, and Bob Pynsent argued Ms Rosser only made the disclosure when she learnt of the motion, and that they were concerned about her prolonged absence from the council while on leave and votes of no confidence in her passed by council staff.
Cr Davey said outside the court yesterday she felt ‘‘completely vindicated’’ by the court’s decision.
‘‘The people of Cessnock will be comfortable with this outcome,’’ Cr Davey said.
The proceedings were initially brought against 10 of 12 ward councillors, excluding Ian Olsen and Rachel Main.
The council has since withdrawn action against Crs James Ryan, Chris Parker and Graham Smith.