The NSW government is being urged to ban developers or real estate agents from public office after controversial councillor Salim Mehajer was suspended for failing to disclose his financial interests.
Auburn City Councillor Irene Simms says she was pleased with the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s decision to ban Mr Mehajer for four months for breaching pecuniary interest laws.
The tribunal found the controversial property developer did not disclose his financial interest in developments he voted on during three council meetings between November 2012 and December 2013.
Ms Simms and her faction of councillors – dubbed the poor four – have been calling for an investigation since September last year after they objected to a number of planning proposals.
“It’s been a long time coming and if it’s the end of (Salim’s) career then it’s no loss to us,” she said.
“Anything that will take him out the door is good news,” she said.
Ms Simms said she didn’t think the incident was a problem exclusive to Auburn Council.
“The Baird government needs to step in and ban developers or real estate agents from being on council because there’s clearly a conflict of interest when planning proposals are discussed,” she said.
In evidence to the tribunal, Mr Mehajer argued he didn’t realise he had to disclose his interest on a Mary Street property his company owned because he did not understand the rules.
“I’m not buying it. This is not a silly man, this is a man who claims to be very intelligent, studied law and is a business owner,” she said.
“We have very clear disclosure guidelines and the forms are quite explicit.”
Auburn City Council is facing an imminent suspension next week after the NSW government announced a public inquiry into allegations some councillors had misused their positions to benefit themselves or relatives.
“There’s a slim chance the rest of us will be able to stay because of the tribunal’s decision,” Ms Simms said.
“I hope it improves our chances of not being suspended because I love what I do.”
But Minister for Local Government Paul Toole said the public inquiry would not be affected by the tribunal’s decision.
“I expect all councillors to act with the highest integrity in their civic duties and in the interest of ratepayers,” he said in a statement.
Mr Mehajer, 29, has said he will appeal the tribunal’s decision.