Tuesday, 18 October 2016
NSW ICAC Operation Cavill: former NSW Liberal MP for Gladesville & former Ryde Mayor committal hearing on charges of blackmail and misconduct in public office
The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 October 2016:
A former Liberal state MP and Sydney mayor will face court on Monday to determine if he should be committed to stand trial for blackmail and misconduct in public office.
Ivan Petch was Ryde mayor when, in 2012, a controversial redevelopment of the Ryde Civic Centre triggered a series of flash points that later became the subject of a two-week hearing by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
Mr Petch now faces a range of charges arising from the inquiry, including two counts of blackmail, misconduct in public office and giving false or misleading evidence to ICAC.
Mr Petch lashed out at the corruption watchdog last week for having "discoloured" his "whole career in one fell swoop".
"I have spent 37 years serving the people and, in that time, I have always acted in the interests of the community," he said. "I have stood by them all the way through."
After losing his state seat of Gladesville in the 1995 election to Labor's John Watkins by the narrow margin of 250 votes, Mr Petch became an independent councillor who went on to serve six terms as Ryde mayor.
However, in 2013, ICAC investigated Mr Petch over the alleged release of confidential council information "on many occasions for various reasons" but most notably to "undermine" council employees such as the former general manager John Neish.
During the inquiry, a phone tap was played of Mr Petch threatening to "destroy" Mr Neish. It emerged that, a short time later, sensitive material was leaked in a bid to discredit the council's head, after he refused to delay a high-rise residential redevelopment plan for council's ageing civic centre.
Mr Petch, who is charged with one count of misconduct in public office for allegedly releasing that material, has also been charged with "being an accessory before the fact of a count of blackmail" in relation to the alleged threat, for which property developer John Goubran is also facing a blackmail charge.
Mr Petch is also facing a separate charge of blackmail for allegedly attempting to improperly influence Mr Neish's acting replacement Danielle Dickson after her predecessor quit.
The then mayor allegedly threatened Ms Dickson that councillors, including himself, would block her application for the permanent position if she failed to resolve an ongoing Supreme Court costs dispute in their favour.
Mr Petch's three-day committal hearing will be heard in Sydney Local Court by Deputy Chief Magistrate Jane Mottley.
NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC):
Ryde City Council – allegations concerning the City of Ryde Mayor, Councillor Ivan Petch (Operation Cavill)
The ICAC investigated a number of allegations involving the former Mayor of the City of Ryde, Ivan Petch, and others, including the alleged release of confidential council information by Mr Petch on many occasions for various reasons, including in an attempt to undermine council employees, such as the former General Manager, Mr John Neish.
In its report on the investigation, made public on 30 June 2014, the Commission makes corrupt conduct findings against Mr Petch, John Goubran and Richard Henricus. The Commission is of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with respect to the prosecution of Mr Petch, Mr Goubran, Anthony Stavrinos, John Booth and Mr Henricus for various offences.
The ICAC is of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the DPP also with respect to the prosecution of Mr Petch, councillors Justin Li, Jeffrey Salvestro-Martin, Terry Perram and former councillor Victor Tagg for offences under the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 in relation to advertising published in The Weekly Times in August and September 2012. The Commission also recommends that the Office of Local Government gives consideration to disciplinary action against Mr Petch, with a view to his dismissal…..
Recommendations for prosecutions…..
The ICAC is of the opinion that the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions should be obtained with respect to the prosecution of the following persons:
* The common law offence of misconduct in public office in relation to his handling of the discovery of adult material on Mr Neish's computer and his attempts to leak the material to the media.
* Five offences of giving false or misleading evidence pursuant to section 87 of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 relating to the discovery of adult material on John Neish's computer.
* The common law offence of misconduct in public office in relation to his release of confidential advice from the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, and also internal Council emails concerning planning approvals.
* Making an unwarranted demand with menaces with the intention of influencing the exercise of a public duty pursuant to section 249K of the Crimes Act 1900 in relation to the approach to Danielle Dickson.
* Offences of accepting an indirect campaign contribution pursuant to section 96E of the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 in relation to advertising published in The Weekly Times on 1, 7, 15, and 22 August 2012, and also 29 August and 5 September 2012.
Full report here.