Battle continues: public petition to reveal complainant

A PUBLIC petition is about to be launched, calling for Singleton Council general manager Lindy Hyam to reveal who made a $1million anonymous code of conduct complaint against former deputy mayor Paul Nichols.

This follows a split decision by Singleton councillors at their last meeting of the year on Monday to take no action on the controversial Supreme Court dispute.

Councillors Tony McNamara, Val Scott and Hollee Diemar-Jenkins wanted the name revealed while John Martin, Godfrey Adamthwaite, Sue Moore, Ruth Rogers, Bob Keown, Gary Lowe and Tessa Capsanis did not.

Former councillor Alison Howlett addressed the meeting and called for Mrs Hyam to exercise her power to disclose the complainant’s identity in accordance with legal opinion she tabled.

Unsuccessful mayoral candidate Kylie Stibbard also addressed the meeting, calling for the name to be released as former councillors deserved to be cleared of the dispute’s potential residue.

The legal advice from solicitor, Alex Irving, who successfully represented Mr Nichols in the case, said there was no need for the council to apply to the Supreme Court to have a suppression order lifted as Mrs Hyam was legally entitled to reveal the name.

The complaint, made in May 2010, accused deputy mayor Cr Nichols of leaking confidential information.

He took Supreme Court action to address a lack of procedural fairness which resulted in the council’s code of conduct report being quashed and, ultimately, state government bureaucrats throwing the complaint out.

The suppression order was imposed at the request of council staff, on behalf of the council itself and Scott Greensill who had just resigned as the council’s general manager.

Mr Nichols said yesterday: “The cover-up continues.

“This is public money and someone should be accountable for what happened to it, if this happened in someone’s business the shareholders would want to know who was behind it, what actually happened and ensure it wasn’t repeated.”

A seven page report by business support director Anthony Egan recommended no further action as it appeared to him there would be no benefit in seeking to have the suppression lifted because, even if it was, the council would still be subject to provisions of the Public Interests Disclosure Act.

His report said the legal firm that represented the council in the case now declined to act on the suppression “due to potential conflicts of interest”.

Another legal firm also declined and a third firm provided opinion on which Mr Egan’s report was based.

The complainant refused to allow their name to be made public and the state government’s local government division chief Ross Woodward said he believed revealing the complainant’s name and chasing them for costs appeared to be aimed “to take detrimental action against that person”.

Mr Woodward was concerned it would also deter legitimate code of conduct complaints.

Cr McNamara said whistleblower protection should not apply to the anonymous complainant as they were not a whistleblower, they simply made unsupported allegations that were part of a costly political assassination that caused a lot of harm and embarrassment.

Cr Moore, who moved the no action motion, said the Singleton community was sick of the issue and its waste of money, and revealing the name could lead to reprisals and be in breach of the Public Interests Disclosure Act.

Singleton Council

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