Former Griffith Mayor Mike Neville has had his pay suspended for two months after undeclared conflicts of interest during his time as councillor were uncovered recently.
It was found he had failed to declare pecuniary interests in a family business, a matter where where a likelihood or expectation of some kind of financial loss or gain.
The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) handed down the decision earlier this week where he was formally reprimanded.
The tribunal found he had breached disclosure laws, but did not gain any financial benefit from the breach.
According to the decision handed down, Cr Neville says, “he did not intend to deliberately conceal any pecuniary interest he held in MGN” and has since apologised.
He was elected to Griffith City Council in 1999 and has also served time as the city’s mayor.
Cr Neville failed to disclose the business between 2002 and 2015, around two thirds of the total time he has spent on council.
In his decision, NCAT Principal Member Titterton said the breach of disclosure laws was unintentional.
“For some 13 years, he failed to complete his returns in an accurate way; on the contrary, he admits that he completed them in a misleading way,” he said.
They said due to the object seriousness of the issue, it required more than a reprimand.
“Were it not for the fact that he made no personal gain from the failure, and has apologised, I would also have suspended his right to payment for a period of six months.”
In 2015, Mr Neville was forced to defend himself following claims he failed to properly disclose his involvement in a production of Beauty and the Beast.
During the production, his wife was was paid $5000 by Griffith City Council to be the costume designer.
Griffith Mayor John Dal Broi said the situation should serve as a wake up call to all those involved in local government.
“We have a saying in local government. If you don’t know, declare it,” he said.
“We, as councillors, have to be really diligent when we fill in our disclosure forms. Sometimes councillors are involved in a lot of trusts or businesses but we have to make sure we declare those interests.”
Office of Local Government (OLG) Chief Tim Hurst agreed. He said all councillors need to be aware of their legislative obligations.
“All councillors in NSW are required to conduct themselves with the utmost integrity and honesty and the community expects no less,” Mr Hurst said.
“Pecuniary interest laws are there to ensure the community can have faith in the system of local government and the people they elect to represent them.”
“The community rightfully expects their elected representatives will properly manage and declare any pecuniary interests as required by the Local Government Act.”
Councillor Neville declined comment.