Ban Developers From Public Office 3

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Monday, February 1st, 2016
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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.

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3
  1. Andrew Heaton Andrew Heaton

    Obviously, Mehajer's argument that he did not understand the rules is ludicrous and prove nothing other than the fact that he is unfit to be a councillor.

    Any ordinary reasonable person ought to understand that a councillor who has a vested interest in a given decision needs to disclose that interest.

    Even if he genuinely did not know, a failure to understand the basic duties of being a councillor proves that he is unfit to be a councillor.

  2. Grant Spork

    "Peer Reviews" by planning and design panels in NSW are institutionalised corruption. Meet the "Peer Review" panels criteria and be allowed to exceed the density and height restrictions of other developers? Absolutely corrupt. "Peer Review" panelists cosy up to councilors and elected representatives and are paid back handers to give good reviews to developers who have paid the bribe. It is not just council governance which should be separating elected representatives from developers, but corrupt professional bodies which allow and promote their members to join "Peer Review" panels.

    • Tony Fendt

      "Peer Review" is so corrupted throughout medicine and science that there's no reason to accept it elsewhere.