Auburn City Council – allegations concerning councillor and developer (Operation Barrow)

Year: 2012 Status: Completed

The ICAC investigated allegations that between September 2009 and February 2010, Auburn City Councillor Jack Au accepted a cash payment from developer Ms Shu Xian Liang to secure his assistance to expedite approval for a development application she had lodged for a restaurant/karaoke bar.

In its report on the investigation, made public on 14 June 2012, the Commission made corrupt conduct findings against Mr Au and Ms Liang. The Commission is of the opinion that the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions should be sought with respect to the prosecution of Mr Au for specified offences. The ICAC also recommends 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.

Findings of corrupt conduct

The Commission has found that Jack Shui Lung Au (also known as Jack Au) engaged in corrupt conduct by accepting $4,500 from Shu Xiang Liang (also known as Sue Liang) sometime prior to 3 March 2010 as a reward for him having used his position as a councillor to assist her with her development application and as an inducement to use his position as a councillor to help expedite council determination of Ms Liang's application.

Shu Xiang Liang (also known as Sue Liang) engaged in corrupt conduct by paying Mr Au $4,500 intending that he would keep up to $3,600 of that money for himself as a reward for his efforts as a councillor in assisting her with her development application by arranging meetings with council officers and to encourage him to use his position as a councillor to help expedite council determination of her application in the future.

Recommendations for prosecutions

The Commission must seek the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on whether any prosecution should be commenced. The DPP determines whether any criminal charges can be laid, and conducts all prosecutions. The Commission provides information on this website in relation to the status of prosecution recommendations and outcomes as advised by the DPP. The progress of matters is generally within the hands of the DPP. Accordingly, the Commission does not directly notify persons affected of advice received from the DPP or the progress of their matters generally.

The ICAC is of the opinion that the advice of the DPP should be sought with respect to the prosecution of Mr Au for offences under section 249B of the Crimes Act 1900. The relevant offences would be:

  • his receipt of money as a reward for what he had done for Ms Liang with respect to her development application

  • his acceptance of money as an inducement to help expedite council determination of that application.

On 13 May 2013, Mr Au was charged with one count of corruptly receiving a benefit contrary to section 249B(1)(b) of the Crimes Act. On 20 December 2013, Mr Au was convicted of this offence and sentenced to 200 hours community service. Mr Au appealed against his conviction.

On 7 July 2014, Mr Au's appeal against his conviction was dismissed and the conviction and sentence of the Local Court was confirmed.

Recommendations for disciplinary action

The Commission recommended pursuant to section 74C(2) of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 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.

Mr Au was suspended from civic office as a councillor of Auburn City Council on 18 June 2012. He resigned on 25 June 2012.

Recommendations for corruption prevention

One of the issues highlighted by this investigation is the difficulty people with poor English language skills and little knowledge of the planning process can have in negotiating the relatively complex requirements for obtaining development consent. Risks include less scrupulous individuals seeking to overcome some of the complexities and delays by offering money or other benefits to public officials to overlook requirements or facilitate faster determination.

A related risk is that unscrupulous public officials may seek to exploit poor understanding of legal requirements and appropriate standards of conduct by soliciting money or other benefits in return for promising to ensure approval is granted. While the Commission has not made specific recommendations in this report to address corruption risks associated with this, the issue has been addressed in several previous public reports (including Investigation into the offer of a corrupt payment to an officer of Strathfield Municipal Council (Operation Centurian) and Investigation into the corrupt conduct of a Willoughby City Council officer (Operation Chruchill)), and corruption prevention recommendations have been made to councils and the Division of Local Government to deal with this issue.

Media Releases
Witness Transcripts

View all transcripts associated with this investigation. The Commission makes every effort to post the daily transcripts of its public inquiries on its website by 8:00 pm each day when possible. If the Commission sits later than 4:00 pm, the daily transcripts, particularly the afternoon session, may not be available until the next working day.

 

Exhibits Public notices