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Conflict of interest issues for council

Murray Shire Council is set to have continuing issues with more accusations of conflict of interests.

RUTH CLAYTON October 8, 2012 5:11am
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Despite Murray Shire mayor Tom Weyrich saying on Tuesday Maiden Smith Drive Estate planning decisions were ‘‘done and dusted’’, conflict of interest accusations look set to continue.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Cr Gavin Burke asked council to launch an investigation into Cr Brian Sharp due to a perceived conflict of interest.

Cr Burke, who before becoming a councillor was outspoken on Maiden Smith Drive issues, referred to a trip to Sydney made by Cr Sharp with former councillor Di Macfarlane, who owns property in the estate.

The Riv reported in February Mrs Macfarlane made the trip to lobby the NSW Government to change council’s decision on Maiden Smith Drive Estate lot sizes.

Cr Sharp revealed on Tuesday his flights were paid for by Mrs Macfarlane, but maintained he did not have a conflict of interest.

Cr Sharp said his trip to Sydney was ‘‘not paid for by council and had nothing to do with council’’.

‘‘Never once was councillor Macfarlane’s property in question,’’ he said.

‘‘I don’t think this is council business, if Mr Burke wants to put in a complaint about me, he can write a complaint to the relevant authorities.’’

Cr Weyrich said he did not know if the council had any powers to undertake an investigation.

‘‘Cr Burke, I would suggest if you’re not happy with the explanation... put it in writing (and take it up with) the relevant authorities,’’ Cr Weyrich said.

The Riv reported on Friday former Murray Shire mayor Graeme Shiells believed Cr Burke should not have been able to sit in on council discussion regarding Maiden Smith Drive planning issues.

‘‘Cr Burke has prejudged the issue of Maiden Smith Drive and is unlikely to provide a balanced view or any consideration of an opposing view,’’ Mr Shiells said.

Mr Shiells also owns property in the Maiden Smith Drive Estate and, while a councillor, excluded himself from discussions and voting relevant to the issue of minimum lot sizes.

Before becoming a councillor, Cr Burke assisted and gave advice to a Maiden Smith Drive Estate resident.

He denied he had a conflict of interest as a councillor.

Interestingly, Cr Sharp agreed Cr Burke’s conscience should be clear.

‘‘I certainly have no problem with councillor Burke being in here todayI don’t think he had a conflict of interest,’’ he said.

‘‘He (Cr Burke) was rightful in doing what he was doing and I was rightful in doing what I was doing.’’

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