Few escape wrath in inquiry report



PROMINENT Tweed lawyers as well as developers, councillors and council election candidates have copped a pasting from the final report of the public inquiry into Tweed Shire Council.

The report, tabled yesterday in the NSW Parliament, also calls for a review of the way council elections are conducted because, it says, councils operate in a far different way to Parliament.

Prof Maurice Daly, who chaired the inquiry which in May led to the sacking of the council, has told the government the level of scrutiny of councils is weak.

He said councils do not give the community much chance to debate policies and have no proper opposition as in Parliament.

He called for council election candidates to be required to disclose the size and source of electoral donations to the returning officer five days before an election, with the declarations made available at polling places on election day.

Stiff penalties, including jail terms, could apply to people making false declarations.

Prof Daly voiced alarm that in the 2004 Tweed Shire Council elections a major part of the funds used by Tweed Directions, which ran a campaign supporting pro-development councillors, came from outside the Tweed Shire.

Releasing the report, NSW Local Government Minister Kerry Hickey said restoring public confidence in local government administration was a high priority for the state government.

The latest report, like the first, also refers a number of matters to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

In the report Professor Daly strongly criticised developer Paul Brinsmead, who is a solicitor and son of former pro-development councillor Bob Brinsmead, as well as the council's own solicitor Tony Smith.

He slammed Mr Brinsmead for what he said was "evidence calculated to deceive the inquiry", adding it was clear Mr Brinsmead "lied to the inquiry when giving evidence under oath".

Prof Daly said claims by Mr Brins-mead that he had only a limited role in Tweed Directions were clearly "cast aside" by evidence in various emails obtained by the inquiry.

Mr Brinsmead could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Prof Daly accused Mr Smith of a "calculated attempt to scuttle the work of the inquiry" by numerous allegations of bias and lack of fairness to defend the "six councillors he determined were his clients".

"Mr Smith's ignorance, his repeated acts of contempt of the inquiry, his breach of contract by representing just one part of the body corporate, and his willingness to go public on issues, playing politics in the process, are a disgrace to the legal profession," Prof daly said.

Mr Smith yesterday said he had not had a chance to read the 1001 page second report from Prof Daly, but as a lawyer was not concerned at being attacked for speaking up in defence of his clients.

He said he stood by his criticisms of the inquiry and still had "severe reservations" about issues such as cross-examination of witnesses not being allowed.

"Professor Daly is perfectly entitled to make the comments he has. I don't agree with him," he said.



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