Two articles appeared in this weeks newspapers relating to Darebin Council and bribery allegations…
Probe underway at Darebin Council
THE Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate has confirmed Darebin Council is under investigation.
The Inspectorate’s senior communications advisor Vicki Bonet sent a statement to the Leader this morning saying: “The Inspectorate has conducted preliminary enquiries into a matter at Darebin Council”.
But it has not disclosed any details of the matter under review.
This revelation follows explosive claims on ABC radio and a metropolitan daily that both the Victorian Ombudsman and the Inspectorate were investigating the council in relation to controversial planning decisions, which were first published in the Leader earlier this year.
The claims revolve around alleged relationships between developers and some councillors.
Northern Metropolitan Region Greens MP Greg Barber also raised concerns with Planning Minister Matthew Guy in State Parliament yesterday, asking if he was aware of any investigations into Darebin Council or was undertaking any investigation to get to the bottom of claims.
Mr Guy said he had no ability to investigate the council’s planning decision and urged anyone with concerns to take them to the Inspectorate or the Ombudsman for investigation.
Mr Barber said Mr Guy’s response to the concerns was evasive and unsatisfactory.
“The Leader group has known about these problems in planning at Darebin for a long time and now everyone one knows there are investigations,” he said.
“This puts every planning decision made at Darebin under a cloud and the Minister’s response is not good enough.’’
Ombudsman Victoria would not confirm whether it was investigating the council.
Source: Preston Leader 21 June 2012 by Julia Irwin
Ombudsman told of Darebin bribes
THE Ombudsman’s office has been told that at least one councillor at an inner Melbourne council has been sounded out with possible bribes to make favourable planning decisions.
Investigators are believed to have interviewed several councillors and staff at Darebin City Council about the allegations and the handling of contentious planning decisions.
The Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate has also begun investigating. A whistleblower has told The Age that an intermediary had indicated to at least one councillor that they could get at least $5000 from a developer for agreeing to a planning decision.
The whistleblower is believed to have passed the information to the Ombudsman’s office. The Age has seen no evidence that any councillors have in fact been offered bribes.
The Ombudsman’s investigation is believed to be several months old, with some council insiders interviewed several times. Cr Trent McCarthy, of the Greens, said no one had ever approached him, ‘‘ andI don’t think they ever would’’ .
‘‘ I have heard rumours from time to time about these sorts of things, and I hope they would be properly investigated,’’ he said.
One councillor, so concerned about the handling of planning decisions at the council, quit its powerful planning committee last month.
‘‘ It has been a difficult time for this committee during the last few months, where matters appear to have been determined on factors not associated with proper planning principles ,’’ Cr Vince Fontana told the local Leader newspaper.
When contacted by The Age, Cr Fontana stood by the comments and his decision to quit the committee.
‘‘ What was published there covers it I guess,’’ he said.
Mayor Steven Tsitas, who stepped in to take Cr Fontana’s position on the planning committee , said he did not share Cr Fontana’s concerns.
‘‘ I don’t know what he was talking about, quite frankly, all I can conclude is he has taken a position that is more to do with politics than fact,’’ he said. All councils in Victoria, except Brimbank, will go to the polls in October.
Said Cr Tsitas: ‘‘ The council is just getting on with the job, and at the end of the day we are like all families.
‘‘ I suppose there will be some who go in different directions, but at the end of the day they are mindful that they have to come home at some place.’’
The chairwoman of the Darebin planning committee, Diana Asmar, said in a written statement: ‘‘ Since taking over as chair of the planning committee in December 2011, I’ve worked to respond to community feedback by bringing greater transparency to the committee.
‘‘ Cr Fontana did not raise any concerns or issues about the planning committee with me prior to resigning. His resignation wasa surprise, but I respect that it’s his choice to make.’’
The Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate confirmed it had held ‘‘ preliminary inquiries into a matter’ ’ at Darebin Council.
The Ombudsman’s office would not confirm or deny the investigation.
Source: TheAge Thurs 21st June 2012 By JASON DOWLING