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Let the "gRifting" END

Last Thursday I wrote to 30 Councils asking for a copy of their gift registers. Why?

Because many of them are not easily accessible online (as they should be).


This is on the back of the following in the public domain already:

  • PORT PHILLIP - Confirmation that the Mayor (Heather Cunsolo) accepted gifts totaling over $10,000 (including 2 tickets to the Grand Prix worth $9,700).

  • Confirmation that other Councillors at Port Phillip (Bond, Pearl, and Cunsolo) had previously accepted hundreds of dollars in Grand Prix tickets and other "events.

  • CITY OF MELBOURNE - Confirmation that former Lord Mayor Sally Capp, took a $15,000 gift from Lyndsay Fox titled "Holiday".

  • GLEN EIRA - Confirmation that Cr Athanasopoulos took Melbourne Victory tickets valued at $895

  • HUME - Former Mayor Joseph Haweil accepting $630 tickets to the Australian Open tennis

  • GOLDEN PLAINS - Confirmation that Councillors and the CEO accepted over $4,000 in free tickets to Music festivals

  • Allegations at several Councils that Councillors have been accepting hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of FREE AFL tickets and hospitality packages and not declaring them.

  • Moonee Valley - a history of thousands accepted in Horse Racing events and hospitality.


So far, 2 Councils have responded to the register requests.

Perhaps the others are busy, or perhaps they are quickly updating their registers in a panic. My money is on the panic. I am aware that some Councillors are trying to add items from several years ago to already public registers. NOPE. That will not work!


Public Gift registers are VITAL in a democracy - the public has the absolute right to see what gifts are offered, declined or accepted and by whom and from whom.

The rules also state that ANY gift accepted with a value of $500+ must be declared on Councillors PERSONAL interest returns; to highlight the financial "donation or benefit" - this implies a serious conflict of interest to be watched.

No Councillor or Staff should ever be involved in or voting on an item where they have accepted a gift of $500 or more, or indeed any gift. This would never pass the pub test.


We already know IBAC is investigating Councillors at Moonee Valley on alleged gift acceptance.


Generally, it is OK in most industries to accept token gifts up to a nominal value of $50.

This allows for the local theatre production, a small thank you from a community group etc. There is NO JUSTIFICATION for any gift over $50. None. EVER.


On the back of Port Phillip overturning its public ban on the Grand Prix (which was a tokenistic nothing), it's funny how Councillors who took hundreds of dollars of tickets months earlier, thought it important to pass the motion to suddenly "support the Grand Prix". Really?

In Kingston, Councillors who are alleged to have not declared gifts from Hawthorn Football Club, voted to give $5M of ratepayer's money to the club. It matters not the validity of the use; it matters that Councillors had allegedly been accepting any gifts from Hawthorn. It is also alleged that St Kilda football club had been giving Councillors gifts, and a planning application for St Kilda was allegedly approved by some of those Councillors. We can't blame Hawthorn or St Kilda Football Clubs; we can't blame ANY gift offeror - but we can hold those accepting them accountable.


A larger issue is also whether Councillors GIVING the gifts (use of tickets) to their family and friends, could constitute a misuse of their position. Why should a family member or friend of a councillor benefit from the councillors position? They shouldn't. When they are benefiting from tickets worth thousands of dollars, that could be seen as a very, very, dodgy misuse of Council resources and the Councillors position, even if not intended at all. How hard is this for Councillors to get through their thick heads?

If Councillors had to stand up in a public Council meeting and declare the gifts we would see some very different behaviours. Why?


Today, I will write to every Victorian Council, then state by state, and demand the Councillor and Staff Gift registers as a matter of urgency.


Most of what we have found in the small work to date, is in plain sight. So why aren't our investigators - IBAC and the Local Government Inspectorate, not to mention the Minister for Local Government (who wants to address councillor behaviours) actually looking at this? Because they are useless and weak - that is the truth. For all their millions in resources, they aren't doing much at all.


The art of influence is always in the money, the gifts, the benefits, mostly out of public sight. This must be brought into the brightest sunlight to disinfect it.


Let's just explore the $9,700 Grand Prix Tickets, how would we feel if that was CASH given to a Councillor? Perhaps that would meet IBAC's threshold of "corruption"?

Perhaps the Councillor would be on 60 mins and a host of media explaining how and why and trying not to bring the Council into disrepute further.



If Councillors or staff NEED to attend events, Council can PAY for a ticket, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.



The GRIFTING must stop. There is no justification.


With monitors in so many councils, why are they not looking at the obvious items?


We will get to the bottom of it all. We will ensure all gift registers are public.

We will let you call out all the gifts that do not pass the pub test.


Every Victorian Councillor is on notice. The public will see what you took and when.


To the MANY Councillors who decline gifts or always pay for themselves a HUGE THANK YOU for always doing the right thing.


To Council CEO's - it's time to BAN gifts and make the Council pay for event tickets. If Council isn't willing to pay for Councillors or Staff to attend, then it's not "necessary" at all.






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Alex Bajc
Alex Bajc
Jul 09
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

The only gift that is meaningful is a sincer face to face “Thank You”.

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Great work. They should be held accountable. Pay back every cent or face jail time for theft. Keep the bastards honest.

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I'm just gobsmacked that Kingston council gave 5 million Of Ratepayers money to Hawthorn Football club. Its time IBAC took issue with this and the State Govt ., took control of the council. What are the Ratepayers doing about this???

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Peter
Peter
Jul 08

Great work mate , exposing the benefits our so called leaders accept, why would any person or organisation give away so much ? What is the reward to the gift giver ?

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Hi Dean,

Is your work confined to Victoria and if so, do you know if there is a similar body in NSW?

Thanks

David

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Replying to

We are national. Send us anything you want investigated to dean@councilwatch.com.au

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