The Commission also examined whether, between 30 June 2011 and 30 June 2019, Mr Sidoti engaged in a breach of public trust by failing to make a number of pecuniary interest disclosures contrary to his obligations to do so under the Constitution (Disclosures by Members) Regulation 1983, the NSW Parliament Code of Conduct for Members and the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
In its report on the investigation, made public on 20 July 2022, the Commission finds that Mr Sidoti engaged in serious corrupt conduct.
The ICAC is of the opinion that the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions should be obtained with respect to the prosecution of Mr Sidoti for the offence of misconduct in public office.
Findings of corrupt conduct
The ICAC found that John Sidoti MP engaged in serious corrupt conduct by, between approximately late 2013 and February 2017, engaging in a protracted course of conduct, involving the use of his official position as a member of Parliament and the local member for Drummoyne, to try to improperly influence City of Canada Bay Council Liberal councillors, Helen McCaffrey, Mirjana Cestar and Tanveer Ahmed, to adopt and advance certain positions in relation to the Five Dock town centre that would benefit his family’s property interests in the area.
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 Commission is of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the DPP with respect to the prosecution of John Sidoti MP for the offence of misconduct in public office in relation to the course of conduct in which he engaged between approximately late 2013 and February 2017, involving the use of his official position as a member of Parliament and the local member for Drummoyne to:
- try to influence the Liberal councillors on City of Canada Bay Council (CCBC) to exercise their official functions partially in favour of planning outcomes that would favour his family’s property interests in and around the Five Dock town centre, and
- engage in a breach of public trust by representing that he was acting at all times in the interests of his constituents and the local community, when the outcomes he pursued in respect of his family’s property interests were inconsistent with what had been determined by CCBC to be in the public interest.
Recommendations for disciplinary action
The Commission has not made any recommendations regarding disciplinary action in this investigation.
Recommendations for corruption prevention
The Commission makes the following 15 corruption prevention recommendations to help improve systems and prevent the conduct identified in the investigation from recurring.
That the NSW Government, in consultation with NSW Parliament’s Legislative Assembly Privilege and Ethics Committee and Legislative Council Privileges Committee (“NSW Parliament’s designated committees”), amends the Constitution (Disclosures by Members) Regulation 1983 to require:
- the details of interests in trusts, including discretionary trusts and self-managed superannuation funds, to be disclosed as a standalone item
- the details of real property held by discretionary trusts, where a member of Parliament is a potential beneficiary, to be disclosed
- the details of the interests of immediate family members to be disclosed (noting the option to limit access to certain information for privacy reasons)
- the dispositions of interests to family members or other associates to be disclosed
- ongoing (within 28 days) requirements to update disclosures of interests, including for members leaving Parliament
- electronic databases to improve transparency of the registers.
That the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, the President of the Legislative Council and the relevant parliamentary departments jointly ensure that the guidance material for members of Parliament is updated to provide details about their disclosure obligations pursuant to the Constitution (Disclosures by Members) Regulation 1983 (pending implementation of recommendation 1).
That NSW Parliament’s designated committees include a clear, consistent and comprehensive conflict of interest definition in the Code of Conduct for Members. This review should include a consideration of the relevant definitions in the Ministerial Code of Conduct and any opportunities for achieving a consistent approach in regard to avoiding, recognising, disclosing and managing conflicts of interest.
That the NSW Government, in consultation with NSW Parliament’s designated committees, amends the Constitution (Disclosures by Members) Regulation 1983 to provide for the mandatory registration of conflicts of interest by members of Parliament via the creation of a register for this purpose (noting the option to limit access to certain information for privacy reasons).
That the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, the President of the Legislative Council and the relevant parliamentary departments jointly ensure that the guidance material for members of Parliament be updated to provide details about their obligations pursuant to clause 7 of the Code of Conduct for Members, on how to take reasonable steps to avoid, resolve and disclose a conflict of interest, and the registration of conflicts of interest (pending implementation of recommendations 3 and 4).
That the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, the President of the Legislative Council and the relevant parliamentary departments jointly develop and/or update specific training and guidance material about the proper and improper exercise of power by members and undue influence, in line with findings made by this investigation.
That the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, the President of the Legislative Council and the relevant parliamentary departments jointly develop and/or update specific training and guidance material about the improper intermingling of public resources with personal interests, in line with findings made by this investigation.
That the NSW Government considers the introduction of amending legislation to clarify that an applicable code of conduct in relation to a parliamentary secretary is a ministerial code of conduct prescribed or adopted for the purposes of s 9(3) of the ICAC Act.
That the NSW Department of Planning and Environment ensures any guidelines issued pursuant to s 23A of the Local Government Act 1993 regarding the lobbying of councillors include advice about:
- the nature and frequency of meetings between councillors and interested parties, including the need to ensure transparency around these interactions
- how and where to report concerns about lobbying practices
- the receipt of submissions outside of formal processes, including the transmission of material to specific councillors in a way that excludes other councillors and staff
- councillors’ attendance at staff meetings with parties interested in an outcome
- councillor representations to staff arising from lobbying interactions
- the lobbying of councillors by interested parties with whom they have a pre-existing relationship.
That the NSW Department of Planning and Environment updates the Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils in NSW to refer to any councillor lobbying guidelines and to reflect the substantive advice contained in the guidelines.
That City of Canada Bay Council (CCBC) adopts a policy regulating interactions between councillors and staff. The policy should cover councillor representations to staff arising from lobbying activities and the attendance of councillors at proponent meetings with staff.
That CCBC continues to provide conflict of interest training to councillors, at least on a biennial basis. The training should cover situations where councillors are lobbied by those with whom they have a relationship or association and the circumstances where this would give rise to a conflict of interest.
That the Department of Planning and Environment amends the Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils in NSW to generally prohibit councillors’ involvement in matters where they have a pecuniary or significant non-pecuniary conflict of interest, beyond exercising the general rights afforded to a member of the public. An exception should be made in circumstances where a councillor reallocates or delegates their duties, refers interested parties to the appropriate way of making a representation or makes a complaint due to becoming aware of improper conduct.
That the Department of Planning and Environment amends the Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils in NSW to include provisions about the appropriate role of council workshops. In particular, it should be made clear that workshops cannot be used to transact council business.
That CCBC continues to offer planning training to councillors during each term on their obligations under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, particularly regarding the consideration of planning proposals.