Georges River councillors under ICAC investigation not stood aside

The notice of motion was raised at Monday night's meeting (pictured) of Georges River Council. Picture: File image
The notice of motion was raised at Monday night's meeting (pictured) of Georges River Council. Picture: File image

Two Georges River councillors currently being investigated by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) will not be stood aside.

Councillor Sandy Grekas raised a notice of motion at last nights council meeting calling on the two councillors, who cannot be named for legal reasons, to stand aside pending ICAC's findings.

However, the majority of councillors voted against the call to have the councillors stood aside.

An ICAC spokeswoman confirmed there was no legislative requirement for people in the public sector being investigated by the ICAC to 'stand down' from their position pending the commission's findings.

Cr Grekas previously called for the councillors to stand aside in December 2020; however, both councillors chose not to do so.

Cr Grekas said she raised the motion again as she believed Georges River Council's " reputation had been adversely impacted" by the ongoing investigation.

"As we're all aware, we dealt with this same motion three months ago where initially council did the right thing and supported calling on those councillors who are under investigation by ICAC to stand aside," she said at the meeting.

"However, as we also know, it was then rescinded when certain councillors decided not to remove themselves from the chamber regardless of what happened in December.

"It really seems absurd to have to explain the merits of the argument again, but I am happy to do so, firstly that two of our councillors have been under investigation by ICAC since 2019 and that ICAC has confirmed that it is an active and ongoing investigation into these two councillors.

"Secondly, as we don't know the scope of the operation, we have no way of knowing whether these councillors have continued to vote on matters for which they are potentially under investigation.

"And third, as I said at the December meeting, it is...inappropriate for councillors who are under investigation by ICAC and aware of this to remain in the chamber because it erodes public confidence and trust in councils decision making."

ICAC said it 'does not confirm or deny if it is undertaking investigations, or comment on investigative matters' when asked by the Leader about any ongoing investigation about the Georges River councillors.

Cr Grekas said members of the community were asking how councillors under investigation by ICAC could continue to attend meetings, receive briefings and vote on matters.

"Residents point out that this would never be acceptable in private industry, that board members would absent themselves or be forced to absent themselves until the matter is finalised, even if merely to avoid the perception of impropriety," she said.

"I want to stress that this is not personal, and it is not about preemptively determining guilt; this is about ensuring public confidence in the Georges River Council and its decision-making process.

"I am merely calling on those councillors to stand aside until they have been cleared of any wrongdoing to avoid any accusation of impropriety.

"This is a massive issue for our community."

Councillor Con Hindi spoke against the motion.

"Now we are talking about councillors should voluntarily stand aside," he said.

"I can look at the history of the Labor party, and the Liberal party, of some MPs who were stood aside, they might have resigned from the party, they might have been on the crossbench, they might have resigned as a minister as premier, but they have not stepped out and they still vote until you're found guilty.

"Not everyone who gets investigated by ICAC is going to have something to answer - that's very clear."

Councillor Warren Tegg said councillors supported last year's motion "because it was the right thing to do".

"Councillors, the standard you walk past is the standard you accept," he said.

"The question here isn't whether you are going to walk past the standard. The question here is whether you are going to set it.

"You can't stand by...you are decision-maker as to the standard you accept of the council.

"We are either a council that thinks an ICAC investigation is sufficiently serious to warrant this question or isn't, now I know where I stand on that."

Councillor Landsberry said she would 'stick her neck out' in defence of the embattled councillors.

"I really do believe in due process," she said.

"Heaven forbid we let ICAC get on with their investigation quietly and come up with their findings, either way, we don't know what they are, but we are preempting it.

"Where is the presumption of innocence? Where is due process?"

Georges River mayor Kevin Greene voted in favour of the motion alongside councillors Sandy Grekas, Sam Elmir, Lou Konjarski, Nancy Liu and WarrenTegg.

Whereas councillors Vince Badlati, Con Hindi, Rita Kastanias, Nick Katris, Kathryn Landsberry, Leesha Payor, Colleen Symington and Christina Wu voted against it.

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