Ryde City Council – allegations concerning the City of Ryde Mayor, Councillor Ivan Petch (Operation Cavill)

Year: 2014 Status: Completed

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.

Findings of corrupt conduct

The ICAC found that Ivan Petch engaged in corrupt conduct by:

  • arranging, through John Goubran, to convey a threat to then general manager, John Neish

  • releasing confidential information concerning the discovery of adult material on Mr Neish's computer to various people in an attempt to encourage its reporting in the media so as to undermine Mr Neish's credibility and reputation and to cast doubt on his suitability to serve as the Council's general manager

  • deliberately releasing confidential information in the form of advice from the Department of Planning and Infrastructure that was provided to Anthony Stavrinos on 26 November 2012 and an email from the Council's group manager of environment and planning that was sent to Norman Cerreto on 27 June 2012, in both cases with the intention that the information would be provided to Mr Goubran and used by him for his benefit

  • attempting to improperly influence acting general manager Danielle Dickson in May 2013 to resolve, in favour of six defendant councillors (of which he was one), an ongoing costs dispute in relation to Supreme Court of NSW proceedings in which the Council was involved, by making a threat implying that if she did not do so, he and his fellow defendant councillors would not support her application to be appointed as the Council's general manager

  • at the Council meeting of 26 March 2013, during consideration of a motion to split the Council's advertising between The Weekly Times and another newspaper, deliberately failing to disclose his pecuniary interest or conflict of interest arising from his financial dealing with John Booth (the owner and managing editor of The Weekly Times) and The Weekly Times

  • deliberately releasing Council information that he knew to be confidential to Mr Cerreto, in relation to the Council waste collection and disposal contract

  • deliberately releasing Council information that he knew to be confidential to John Mahony in relation to the proposed Ryde civic precinct redevelopment.

The Commission found that John Goubran engaged in corrupt conduct by arranging through Tony Abboud to convey a threat to Mr Neish implying that Mr Neish's position of Council general manager would not be safe after the 2012 local government elections unless Mr Neish agreed to establish a community consultative committee to consider the Ryde civic precinct redevelopment. The ultimate result of the establishment of this committee would be that the redevelopment would be delayed until after the local government elections.

Richard Henricus engaged in corrupt conduct when he approached Mr Pickering and told him that Mr Pickering would receive favourable publicity in The Weekly Times if he withdrew his opposition to a development application lodged by Mr Booth in relation to the property on which the office of The Weekly Times was located.

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 Director of Public Prosecutions should be obtained with respect to the prosecution of the following persons:

Ivan Petch

  • 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.

John Goubran

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 in relation to the approach to Mr Neish.

Anthony Stavrinos

Giving false or misleading evidence to the Commission pursuant to section 87 of the ICAC Act in relation to the leaking of details of the discovery of adult material on Mr Neish's computer.

John Booth

Giving false or misleading evidence to the Commission pursuant to section 87 of the ICAC Act in relation to his claim during the public inquiry that election advertising published in The Weekly Times under the banner of the website "saveryde.com" was organised by Barry O'Grady.

Jeffrey Salvestro-Martin

Accepting an indirect campaign contribution pursuant to s 96E of the EFED Act in relation to advertising published in The Weekly Times on 29 August and 5 September 2012.

Terry Perram

Accepting an indirect campaign contribution pursuant to s 96E of the EFED Act in relation to advertising published in The Weekly Times on 29 August and 5 September 2012.

Justin Li

Accepting an indirect campaign contribution pursuant to s 96E of the EFED Act in relation to advertising published in The Weekly Times on 29 August and 5 September 2012.

Victor Tagg

Accepting an indirect campaign contribution pursuant to s 96E of the EFED Act in relation to advertising published in The Weekly Times on 29 August and 5 September 2012.

Richard Henricus

Corruptly offering a benefit pursuant to section 249B(2) of the Crimes Act in relation to an approach to Councillor Bill Pickering in which Mr Pickering was asked to withdraw his opposition to a development application.

Updates

Following advice from the DPP, court attendance notices were served from 27 to 29 July 2015 on Ivan Petch, John Goubran, Richard Henricus, Anthony Stavrinos and John Booth.

Ivan Petch

Mr Petch was charged with one count of misconduct in public office for allegedly disclosing confidential information in relation to the former general manager John Neish in 2013. He was also charged with one count of blackmail for allegedly attempting to improperly influence council's acting general manager to resolve in favour of six independent councillors (of which he was one) a costs dispute in relation to Supreme Court of NSW proceedings by making a threat implying that if she did not do so, he and his fellow independent councillors would not support her application to be appointed general manager.

Mr Petch was also charged with being an accessory before the fact of a count of blackmail alleged to have been committed in 2012 by John Goubran, who had implied that Mr Neish's position of general manager would not be safe after the 2012 local government election unless Mr Neish agreed to form a committee to review the Ryde Civic Precinct Redevelopment proposal.

Mr Petch was also charged with six counts of giving false and misleading evidence at ICAC hearings in 2013.

On 8 June 2017, her Honour Magistrate Schurr dismissed the charge of accessory before the fact to blackmail for the conduct involving Mr Goubran, as her Honour had dismissed the substantive charge against Mr Goubran (see below).

Her Honour also found that a prima facie case had been established with respect to the misconduct in office offence, but dismissed the charge on the basis that there was no reasonable prospect that a reasonable jury, properly instructed, would convict Mr Petch of an indictable offence.

Also on 8 June 2017, Mr Petch was committed for trial on a charge of blackmail, pursuant to section 249K of the Crimes Act. Six charges pursuant to section 87 of the ICAC Act were also sent to the Sydney District Court.

On 12 October 2018, Mr Petch was found guilty of the section 249K offence. On 10 December 2018, Mr Petch was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 2 years to commence on 10 December 2018 and expire on 9 December 2020. The term of imprisonment is to be served by way of intensive correction in the community in accordance with the Crimes (Administration of Sentence) Act 1999.

On 14 December 2018, he filed a notice of intention to appeal against his conviction only. The period for lodging an appeal was extended to 14 September 2019 and again until 15 November 2019.

On 28 October 2019, Mr Petch was found guilty of 2 counts of give false evidence to the Commission (the section 87 offences), and not guilty of the remaining four charges. The matter is listed for sentence on 18 December 2019 at the Downing Centre Local Court.

John Goubran

Mr Goubran was charged with blackmail in relation to the threat alleged to have been made to Mr Neish, as set out above. On 8 June 2017, her Honour Magistrate Schurr found a prima facie case proven but dismissed the charge on the basis that there was no reasonable prospect that a reasonable jury, properly instructed, would convict Mr Goubran of an indictable offence.

Richard Henricus

Mr Henricus was charged with corruptly offering a benefit in 2013 to a Ryde City Council officer by allegedly offering him favourable coverage in The Weekly Times if the officer did not prevent a particular development application from being approved by the council. Mr Henricus failed to appear on 7 April 2016 and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. He was arrested on 4 May 2016 and appeared before the Gosford Local Court on 24 May 2016. He was sentenced on 29 June 2016 to 100 hours of community service.

John Booth

Mr Booth was charged with giving false and misleading evidence to the ICAC, contrary to section 87 of the ICAC Act. He was acquitted on 11 April 2016.

Anthony Stavrinos

Mr Stavrinos was charged with giving false and misleading evidence to the ICAC, contrary to section 87 of the ICAC Act. On 6 May 2016, Mr Stavrinos was convicted in the Local Court of one offence under section 87 of the ICAC Act. On 13 May 2016, he was sentenced to a term of 12 months imprisonment with a non-parole period of 7 months. He lodged an appeal to the District Court, and was granted conditional bail. On 10 February 2017, the District Court sentenced Mr Stavrinos to 12 months imprisonment, expiring on 9 February 2018, to be served by way of an intensive corrections order. Mr Stavrinos was also required to perform 32 hours of community service work per month.

Advice concerning the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981

The DPP also advised that there was sufficient evidence to commence criminal proceedings against Mr Petch, Justin Li, Jeffrey Salvestro-Martin, Terry Perram and Victor Tagg for offences alleged to have been committed by each of them in breach of the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 in relation to advertising published in The Weekly Times in August and September 2012. Information in relation to offences against the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 was provided to the NSW Electoral Commission on 30 April 2015, following advice from the NSW Electoral Commission that it was taking over prosecution of offences under the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981. Despite the advice of the DPP, the NSW Electoral Commission announced on 26 August 2015 that it had formed the view that there was insufficient evidence to commence proceedings against the above individuals for offences under the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981.

Recommendations for disciplinary action

The ICAC recommends that the Office of Local Government should give consideration to the following matters:

  1. The immediate suspension of Ivan Petch from civic office with a view to his dismissal pursuant to section 440B of the Local Government Act 1993 ("the LG Act") in relation to his intention to improperly influence John Neish's exercise of his public official functions by arranging to convey a threat to Mr Neish in relation to his position as general manager, actions that the Commission considers amount to serious corrupt conduct (in accordance with section 74C(2) of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988).

  2. The immediate suspension of Mr Petch from civic office with a view to his dismissal pursuant to section 440B of the LG Act in relation to his release of confidential information about the discovery of adult material on Mr Neish's computer, including his attempts to leak the material to the media, actions that the Commission considers amount to serious corrupt conduct (in accordance with section 74C(2) of the ICAC Act).

  3. The immediate suspension of Mr Petch from civic office with a view to his dismissal pursuant to s 440B of the LG Act in relation to his release of confidential information to Mr Anthony and Norman Cerreto with the intention that the information would be provided to John Goubran and used by him for his benefit, actions that the Commission considers amount to serious corrupt conduct (in accordance with section 74C(2) of the ICAC Act).

  4. The immediate suspension of Mr Petch from civic office with a view to his dismissal pursuant to s 440B of the LG Act in relation to his intention to improperly influence Danielle Dickson's exercise of her public official functions as the Council's acting general manager by making a threat implying that he would not support her application as permanent general manager unless she resolved Supreme Court proceedings in a way favourable to him, actions that the Commission considers amount to serious corrupt conduct (in accordance with section 74C(2) of the ICAC Act).

    In the event that Mr Petch is not dismissed as a result of recommendation (i), (ii), (iii) or (iv), the Commission recommends that the Office of Local Government gives consideration to:

  5. disciplinary action against Mr Petch, pursuant to section 440H and section 440L of the LG Act, in relation to breaches of clauses 5.8, 5.9 and 5.10 of the 2011 City of Ryde Council Code of Conduct, as well as section 664 of the LG Act, relating to the disclosure of confidential information concerning the discovery of adult material on Mr Neish's computer, matters that could amount to misconduct as defined in section 440F of the LG Act

  6. disciplinary action against Mr Petch, pursuant to section 440H and section 440L of the LG Act, in relation to breaches of clauses 5.8, 5.9 and 5.10 of the 2011 code of conduct, as well as section 664 of the LG Act, relating to his disclosure of confidential Council information concerning the Council's waste collection and disposal contract and the proposed Ryde civic precinct redevelopment, matters that could amount to misconduct as defined in section 440F of the LG Act.

Pursuant to section 467 of the LG Act, the Commission also refers to the chief executive of the Office of Local Government the parts of this investigation report that relate to possible breaches by Mr Petch of clause 4.2 of the 2013 code of conduct, as well as section 451 of the LG Act, relating to Mr Petch's failure to declare a pecuniary interest in relation to John Booth and The Weekly Times when dealing with matters relating to the Council's advertising before Council.

Updates

Mr Petch was suspended from civic office on 30 June 2014.

Recommendations for corruption prevention

This report does not contain any corruption prevention recommendations. Chapter 10 of the report, however, highlights some of the legislative changes that have been made to the Local Government Act 1993 in an attempt to address issues of corrupt conduct in local government.

Media Releases

Former Mayor of Ryde and others prosecuted following ICAC investigation

29 Jul 2015

Former City of Ryde Mayor Ivan Petch is being prosecuted for offences including misconduct in public office, blackmail, and giving false or misleading evidence to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

ICAC finds former City of Ryde Mayor and others corrupt

30 Jun 2014

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has found that the former mayor of the City of Ryde, Ivan Petch, engaged in corrupt conduct in relation to the release of confidential information for various purposes including attempts to cast doubt on the suitability of John Neish to serve as the Council's general manager.

Operation Cavill report concerning Ryde City Council to be furnished 30 June 2014

26 Jun 2014

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) will furnish its report on the Operation Cavill investigation to the Deputy President of the Legislative Council on Monday 30 June 2014 at 10.30 am.

MEDIA ALERT: ICAC to resume public inquiry into allegations concerning former City of Ryde Mayor tomorrow

19 Sep 2013

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) will resume its Operation Cavill public inquiry concerning allegations involving former City of Ryde Mayor Councillor Ivan Petch, and others, tomorrow (Friday 20 September) at 10:00 am.

Operation Cavill public inquiry to resume 20 September 2013

30 Aug 2013

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) will resume its Operation Cavill public inquiry concerning allegations involving City of Ryde Mayor Councillor Ivan Petch, and others, on Friday 20 September at 10:00 am.

MEDIA ALERT: ICAC public inquiry into allegations concerning the City of Ryde Mayor, Cr Ivan Petch, starts next week

12 Jul 2013

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) will hold a public inquiry commencing at 10:00 am on Monday 15 July 2013 as part of an investigation it is conducting into a number of allegations involving City of Ryde Mayor, Councillor Ivan Petch, and others, including the alleged release of confidential council information on many occasions, and for various reasons including in an attempt to undermine council employees, such as the former General Manager, Mr John Neish.

ICAC public inquiry into allegations concerning the City of Ryde Mayor, Councillor Ivan Petch

19 Jun 2013

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) will hold a public inquiry commencing on Monday 15 July 2013 as part of an investigation it is conducting into a number of allegations involving City of Ryde Mayor, Councillor Ivan Petch, and others, including the alleged release of confidential council information on many occasions, and for various reasons including in an attempt to undermine council employees, such as the former General Manager, Mr John Neish.

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.

 

Filename File Size KB Date pp. Time
15-07-13 transcript 156 15/07/13 00001-00055 10.05am to 1.00pm
15-07-13 transcript 125 15/07/13 00056-00102 2.00pm to 3.59pm
16-07-13 transcript 162 16/07/13 00103-00162 10.00am to 1.02pm
16-07-13 transcript 96 16/07/13 00163-00197 2.12pm to 4.03pm
17-07-13 transcript 178 17/07/13 00198-00262 10.05am to 12.59pm
17-07-13 transcript 125 17/07/13 00263-00308 2.02pm to 4.03pm
18-07-13 transcript 170 18/07/13 00309-00370 10.03am to 12.58pm
18-07-13 transcript 115 18/07/13 00371-00411 2.02pm to 4.01pm
19-07-13 transcript 177 19/07/13 00412-00476 10.05am to 1.02pm
19-07-13 transcript 131 19/07/13 00477-00522 2.04pm to 3.57pm
22-07-13 transcript 167 22/07/13 00523-00586 10.03am to 12.58pm
22-07-13 transcript 101 22/07/13 00587-00624 2.29pm to 4.01pm
23-07-13 transcript 166 23/07/13 00625-00688 10.08am to 1.02pm
23-07-13 transcript 162 23/07/13 00689-00751 2.03pm to 4.19pm
24-07-13 transcript 171 24/07/13 00752-00820 10.03am to 1.02pm
24-07-13 transcript 123 24/07/13 00821-00868 2.02pm to 3.58pm
25-07-13 transcript 161 25/07/13 00869-00929 10.05am_to_1.00pm
25-07-13 transcript 156 25/07/13 00930-00979 2.04pm to 4.09pm
20-09-13 transcript 272 20/09/13 01058-01132 10.05am to 1.02pm
20-09-13 transcript 183 20/09/13 01133-01184 2.03pm to 4.07pm
Exhibits

Download exhibits associated with this investigation below.

Public notices