Wednesday, 23 May 2018


Another damning report into the Glenorchy City Council has found a "loyal trio" operated in conflict of interest for financial gain, potentially to the tune of $1 million.
The Integrity Commission investigated a 2016 complaint from Glenorchy Mayor Kristie Johnston about Alderman Stuart Slade, general manager Peter Brooks and general counsel Seva Iskandarli.
The report pointed to several incidents between 2013 and 2016 where Mr Brooks and Ms Iskandarli directly benefited from the actions of one another.
"The degree of loyalty between Mr Brooks, Ms Iskandarli and Ald Slade existed at the expense of objectivity or the interests of the council," Integrity Commissioner Richard Bingham said.
It said in 2016 Ald Slade was instrumental in altering the method of assessing Mr Brooks' performance as general manager, resulting in him receiving an $18,000 performance bonus he would not otherwise have obtained.
During Ms Iskandarli's employment with the council, she was involved in the amendment of Mr Brooks' contract of employment on two occasions — each time at the direction or request of him or Ald Slade.
Mr Brooks also authorised a salary increase for Ms Iskandarli, who in turn developed KPIs for him.
"In the same year, Mr Brooks appointed Ms Iskandarli as Restructure Coordinator for a process that resulted in her promotion to Director Corporate Governance," the report said.
"Shortly afterwards, Mr Brooks appointed Ms Iskandarli to the position of General Counsel, despite evidence suggesting that at that time Mr Brooks did not know what the role of a General Counsel was."
Mr Bingham estimated the conflicts of interest and attempts to improperly gain pecuniary benefits would reach $1 million.
Ald Johnston said there needed to be consequences for the behaviour.
"At the moment, the individuals outlined in those reports have walked away scot free and the burden of the conduct that they have participated in lies with the community," Ald Johnston said.
"So the community. unfortunately. are the ones at the moment that are paying for the consequences of that conduct.
"We would be very pleased to assist and co-operate with any investigation that might be going forward."
Report 'very concerning': Gutwein
Alderman Matt Stevenson, who also complained about the behaviour of the three, said it confirmed that "ignorance and arrogance" ruled supreme.
"What occurred was a clear conflict of interest, and that is why the mayor and I had absolutely no doubt that we needed to make the initial submission to the Integrity Commission," he said.
"There is no place for that kind of incompetence and lack of ethics within the community, business or government, so it is time for those responsible to finally be held to account."
The report found that when Ald Johnston and Ald Stevenson complained about the behaviour, they experienced strong personal criticism, especially from Mr Slade.

 "A possible conclusion to be drawn from the response to the issues raised by Ald Johnston and Ald Stevenson is that the conflicted culture within council led to some aldermen rejecting those concerns due to political biases," it said.

Local Government Minister Peter Gutwein labelled the report "very concerning".
"I understand the director of local government has reviewed the Integrity Commission's report and is further investigating a number of matters to determine whether referral to the Director of Public Prosecutions should occur," he said.
"The Government is determined to ensure that any potential breaches of the law are investigated fully."
The state government will this week consider Ipswich City Council’s response to a show cause as to why it should not be sacked. ..................... The council will argue that it would be wrong to punish councillors who were not party to alleged corruption themselves, that the dismissal of the council is some kind of assault on democracy. ....................That is wrong, given that local government has always been a creature of the state. The state will then choose between all its options – sack or suspend; or appoint an administrator for months or years. There’s only way to go here. Hard! ..................... The situation in Ipswich is worse than generally publicly understood and sorting is out is going to take the full two years until the next scheduled council election...................... While all the media commentary about Ipswich has focused on alleged corruption, notably the charges against the last two mayors and two CEOs, the bigger issue is the maladministration this allegedly corrupt environment has created. This is the landmine the administrator will find when he or she begins work...................... There are two primary elements to maladministration in Ipswich – organisational and financial. At an organisational level, the council is profoundly politicised and lacks a proper professional and independent public service culture...................... The populist mayor Paul Pisasale was such a dominant figure for so long that council simply lost the distinction between the mayor and councillors’ political interests and the public interest of the city. For a long time, Ipswich has provided relatively poor services for high rates and far too many staff are engaged in public relations...................... As the political façade has fallen apart, organisational morale has collapsed. Staff are directionless and many are scared about what they might have done as even junior staff were directed to “just fix it.” There has already been one suicide of a senior council staff member along with a number of sudden departures and breakdowns...................... The administrator will have to reassure staff, embark on an organisational restructure and establish a proper, professional public service culture...................... Financially, it seems likely that the Ipswich City Council has significant problems. While the operational budget is sitting at a comfortable surplus, there is a crisis in council’s beneficial companies. The CBD is a council-owned demolition site...................... A decade ago, the council purchased Ipswich City Square, the 1980s shopping centre that occupies the three key blocks of the city centre. The centre was in bad shape partly through neglect by its former foreign owner and partly because the council had approved, and then allowed to be built oversized, the massive Riverlink shopping centre directly across the river...................... In the years since the 2008 purchase the council under mayors Pisasale and Andrew Antoniolli, and their deputies Paul Tully and Wayne Wendt, have launched successive, ever more fanciful master plans, the most absurd being a 2016 pre-election commitment for an inner-city lagoon. No promise has ever been fulfilled and instead council has accrued losses likely now sitting in the millions of dollars, with not a thing to show...................... Over the last 12 months through a series of secretive and farcical moves council has entered into contracts first to lease and then later to build and own a new headquarters on the CBD site. Development has been at a snail’s pace; a devastating blow for surrounding CBD businesses...................... With no transparency around the dealings of council companies and a massive debt secured by the council itself, it is quite possible the administrator will find council has entered into a contract for a building it can’t afford. The upshot of the CBD debacle will likely be a call for funds through further state loans, rate rises or both. A new, professional master plan will have to be undertaken for the CBD – all while Ipswich has hit its borrowing limit and the inner city is a hole in the ground...................... The CBD and the mess of the secretive council companies will take time to sort out. The final reason for a significant period of administration is that Ipswich’s civic culture will take time to restore...................... While it may seem over the top to describe Ipswich as a repressive political environment, the fact is that normal civic debate in which individuals and stakeholders have access to information and put forward different views is simply not happening here...................... Over more than a decade, Ipswich became split into Team Pisasale and a marginal few – that’s what a vote of 87 per cent means in practice...................... There was barely a vote or a public debate on council, people who raised concerns were forced out or marginalised (think Mr Pisasale ridiculing Jo-Ann Miller while wearing a wig) and the ALP, which matters because it’s by far the largest and most organised political party in town, was hijacked by Mr Pisasale. He used his membership to neutralise the party as a potential source of opposition and his popularity to co-opt key state MPs to his team...................... If an election was held tomorrow in Ipswich, it would be won by either the One Nation-aligned fringe dwellers, who have put some work into opposing the council, or, as in the last mayoral byelection, by a member of the existing boys’ club who supported Mr Pisasale and even now fail to see the problem...................... The administrator needs to do their job, people have to understand the extent of the problem and there needs to be some time for proper civic debate and a sensible centre to arise...................... Ipswich is a wonderful place. I say it with feeling as someone who was born here, who represented the place in Parliament and in cabinet and who now owns a business in the main street...................... The fundamental irony of Mr Pisasale’s populism was that while the people loved him because he “stood up for Ipswich”, his whole development push was predicated on the idea that the existing Ipswich wasn’t much good and needed to be saved – or superseded – by new outer suburban sprawl at Springfield and on the fringes of town...................... Ipswich has a significant history. It has a tremendous physical environment, wonderful inner-city architecture, an unpretentious culture and that rare thing – a deep and genuine sense of community...................... It can get itself through the abuse council maladministration and alleged corruption has delivered. It will not, however, be an easy fix. It will take some time...................... Rachel Nolan is a former state Labor member for Ipswich and Minister for Finance. She now teaches governance at UQ and owns a café in Ipswich’s main street. She has no interest in running for council.

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