ICAC finds Auburn City councillor corrupt and recommends suspension from office

Thursday 14 June 2012

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) recommends that Auburn City councillor Jack Au be suspended from civic office after it found he engaged in serious corrupt conduct by accepting $4,500 from Shu Xiang Liang as a reward for using his position as a councillor to assist her with the determination of a development application, and as an inducement to use his position to help expedite council determination of the application.

In its report on the Investigation into the payment of $4,500 to a councillor of Auburn City Council, released today, the Commission finds that Mr Au's assistance involved arranging meetings with council officers and maintaining contact with them about progress with determining the application.

The report notes that the corrupt conduct finding against Mr Au is a serious matter that not only affects his reputation but also the standing of the council of which he is a councillor. "It is not in the public interest that such a person should continue to exercise any official functions as a councillor," the report says. "The Commission is satisfied that prompt action is required in the public interest to remove Mr Au from exercising any functions of his office as a councillor." The ICAC has written to the NSW Minister for Local Government advising of its recommendation that consideration be given to the suspension of Mr Au from civic office as a councillor of Auburn City Council with a view to his dismissal for serious corrupt conduct.

The Commission also finds that Ms Liang engaged in corrupt conduct by paying the $4,500 to Mr Au, intending that he would keep up to $3,600 of the money for himself as a reward for his efforts as a councillor in assisting her with her development application for a restaurant at Harrow Road, Auburn. This assistance included the meetings Mr Au arranged with council officers. The money was also intended to encourage Mr Au to use his position as a councillor to help expedite council determination of her application in the future.

Ms Liang said that she intended that Mr Au should give some of the money to two council officers, who she said had undertaken "overtime" by meeting with her after 4:00 pm, which she said she regarded as outside normal office hours. Neither Mr Au nor the two officers were entitled to any overtime payment from Ms Liang and there is no evidence that any of them asked her for such a payment. The Commission found that although Mr Au understood that part of the money was intended for the council officers, he did not make any payment to them because he knew it would be improper to do so.

Mr Au told the Commission that he had provided some building and pest control advice to Ms Liang, and asserted that the payments made by Ms Liang were for building and pest inspection work he had undertaken for her and he accepted the money on that basis. No records of the work allegedly undertaken were created by Mr Au or his sister, who owned the company for which he worked, other than a document dated 2 February 2010, the authenticity of which has been rejected by the Commission. The ICAC is satisfied that Mr Au kept the $4,500 for himself and did not pay any of it to his employer.

The Commission is of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions with respect to the prosecution of Mr Au for offences of receiving money as a reward for what he had done for Ms Liang with respect to her development application and accepting money as an inducement to help expedite council determination of that application. The ICAC held a public inquiry over three days, commencing on 27 March 2012. Assistant Commissioner Theresa Hamilton presided at the public inquiry, at which five witnesses gave evidence.

Investigation report

Fact sheet

Media enquiries: ICAC Manager Communications & Media Nicole Thomas 02 8281 5799 / 0417 467 801

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