• Con­flict of in­ter­est ac­cu­sa­tion

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Front Page - BY SARAH SCULLY

AHor­sham Ru­ral City coun­cil­lor has called on mayor Pam Clarke to ‘do the right thing for the com­mu­nity’ af­ter lev­el­ling ac­cu­sa­tions of con­flict of in­ter­est and bias at a pub­lic meet­ing on Mon­day night.

Cr John Robin­son al­leged Cr Clarke showed ap­pre­hended bias, ac­tual bias and con­flict of in­ter­est in re­la­tion to a po­ten­tial Western High­way by­pass of Hor­sham.

Cr Robin­son said Cr Clarke’s in­volve­ment in fam­ily busi­ness Hor­sham Jayco, in Stawell Road, left her com­pro­mised. The busi­ness is on Vicroads’ po­ten­tial by­pass route 5A.

“You have a di­rect, or ap­pear to have a di­rect, con­flict of in­ter­est un­der the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Act and our own coun­cil­lor code of con­duct,” Cr Robin­son said. “It also ap­pears to me that you have failed to de­clare this con­flict of in­ter­est.”

Cr Robin­son said he be­lieved Cr Clarke acted in a ‘hos­tile and un­rea­son­able man­ner’ when­ever there had been a move to ‘im­peril the se­lec­tion of op­tion D, an align­ment which has no im­pact on your prop­erty’.

“You have acted with such par­ti­san­ship and hos­til­ity to show your mind is made up and you’re not ca­pa­ble of be­ing per­suaded on an­other align­ment,” he said.

“This is to the point where you’ve rejected or sup­pressed any con­trary ac­tiv­i­ties and have at­tacked any ac­tion or per­son in­clud­ing my­self, who’s moved to bring other op­tions to bear for com­mu­nity con­sid­er­a­tion.”

Cr Robin­son said Cr Clarke had at­tempted to deny coun­cil­lors be­ing pre­sented with sig­nif­i­cant ma­te­rial rel­e­vant to Hor­sham aerodrome and ac­cused her of pre­sent­ing her per­sonal view, rather than the view of the coun­cil, to Roads Min­is­ter Luke Don­nel­lan at a meet­ing in Fe­bru­ary.

“You took it upon your­self to tell the min­is­ter that most or the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple in Hor­sham would be happy with op­tion D,” he said. “This is con­trary to coun­cil’s of­fi­cial po­si­tion, by mo­tion passed that we did not sup­port op­tion D.”

Cr Robin­son said Cr Clarke had not de­clared her as­so­ci­a­tion with Hor­sham Jayco at any by­pass meet­ing he had at­tended.

“Madam Mayor I put it to you that you are not in a po­si­tion to im­par­tially ad­ju­di­cate on this issue,” he said.

“I call on you to do the right thing for this com­mu­nity. This is a for­ever de­ci­sion.

“If we make the wrong de­ci­sion and don’t follow the ad­min­is­tra­tive guide­lines pro­vided by the High Court and statutes then this coun­cil is ex­posed to lit­i­ga­tion and other ac­tions, which could drag on for years.”

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Peter Brown told Cr Robin­son he was putting the coun­cil in a very dif­fi­cult po­si­tion.

He said he had sought ex­ten­sive le­gal opin­ion fol­low­ing a query by Cr David Grim­ble re­lat­ing to a po­ten­tial con­flict of in­ter­est by the mayor.

“That opin­ion is very clear that the mayor does not – does not – have a con­flict of in­ter­est,” he said

He said in­di­vid­ual coun­cil­lors were re­spon­si­ble for seek­ing ad­vice about po­ten­tial con­flicts of in­ter­est.

“If there is a be­lief there is a con­flict of in­ter­est and the coun­cil hasn’t de­clared it, then it’s an issue for Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Vic­to­ria,” he said.

“I would sug­gest that’s where you take this mat­ter – given the op­por­tu­nity prior to this meet­ing I would have given you that ad­vice.”

Per­sonal at­tack

Cr Clarke said she did not take Cr Robin­son’s al­le­ga­tions lightly.

“Cr Robin­son, you made a threat in front of other coun­cil­lors a few months ago that there would ei­ther be you or me sit­ting at the ta­ble at the end of this,” she said.

“I was wait­ing for this at­tack on my per­son for quite a while and it has come.”

Cr Clarke said she sought ad­vice about po­ten­tial con­flict of in­ter­est re­lat­ing to the by­pass in 2012.

“The in­for­ma­tion I got and the ad­vice I got was that I did not – that it was an ‘in­ter­est in com­mon’,” she said.

“Any­one in Stawell Road – any­one in Hor­sham who has a busi­ness – is go­ing to be im­pacted if the op­tion goes to op­tion D. I had that ad­vice very early on, so I stuck with it.”

Cr Clarke said she sought ad­vice again fol­low­ing Cr Grim­ble’s in­quiry.

“It’s my cred­i­bil­ity at stake here. It’s a very se­ri­ous issue for me. Now I have le­gal ad­vice to say I have acted ap­pro­pri­ately through­out this,” she said.

“A lot of the is­sues you dis­cussed were not my de­ci­sion, Cr Robin­son. They were dis­cussed with the ex­ec­u­tive and were is­sues we dealt with as a group. This is def­i­nitely a per­sonal at­tack and I take of­fence at it.”

• The coun­cil’s for­mal po­si­tion is it will sup­port a Western High­way by­pass of Hor­sham, but will not en­dorse or dis­count any of the route op­tions.

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