NSW State Member for Drummoyne – allegations concerning improper influence and breach of public trust (Operation Witney)

Year: 2022 Status: Completed

The ICAC investigated allegations that, between 26 March 2011 and 6 February 2018, the State Member for Drummoyne, John Sidoti MP, improperly influenced another person, or persons, to dishonestly or partially exercise any of their official functions in respect of: advancing amendments to development controls affecting land between Second Avenue and Barnstaple Road on Waterview Street, Five Dock; and/or any rezoning of the land and/or any proposals to develop the land situated at 120, 122 and 124 Great North Road, Five Dock, and 2 Second Avenue, Five Dock.

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.

The Commission makes 15 corruption prevention recommendations to help improve systems and prevent the conduct identified in the investigation from recurring.


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.

Recommendation 1

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.

Recommendation 2

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).

Recommendation 3

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.

Recommendation 4

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).

Recommendation 5

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).

Recommendation 6

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.

Recommendation 7

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.

Recommendation 8

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.

Recommendation 9

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.

Recommendation 10

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.

Recommendation 11

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.

Recommendation 12

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.

Recommendation 13

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.

Recommendation 14

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.

Recommendation 15

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.

Media Releases

ICAC finds member for Drummoyne John Sidoti MP corrupt

20 Jul 2022

The ICAC has found that Anthony (John) Sidoti MP engaged in serious corrupt conduct by using his official position, as a member of Parliament and the local member for Drummoyne, to try to improperly influence City of Canada Bay Liberal councillors 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.

MEDIA ALERT: Re-opened public inquiry into allegations concerning John Sidoti MP starts tomorrow

28 Sep 2021

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (ICAC) re-opened Operation Witney public inquiry into allegations concerning the State Member for Drummoyne, John Sidoti MP, will start tomorrow Wednesday, 29 September 2021 at 10:00 am.

Public inquiry into allegations concerning John Sidoti MP to be re-opened

22 Sep 2021

The NSW ICAC will re-open the Operation Witney public inquiry into allegations concerning the State Member for Drummoyne, John Sidoti MP, commencing next Wednesday, 29 September 2021 from 10:00 am for approximately three days.

MEDIA ALERT: Public inquiry into allegations concerning John Sidoti MP starts Monday

26 Mar 2021

The ICAC's Operation Witney public inquiry into allegations concerning the State Member for Drummoyne, John Sidoti MP, will start next Monday, 29 March 2021 at 10:00 am.

Public inquiry into allegations concerning the Hon John Sidoti MP

3 Mar 2021

The ICAC will hold a public inquiry starting Monday 29 March 2021 as part of an investigation it is conducting into allegations concerning the State Member for Drummoyne, the Hon John Sidoti MP (Operation Witney).

Witness Transcripts

View all public inquiry transcripts associated with this investigation. The Commission will endeavour to make transcripts available as soon as practicable. It cannot advise specific times for when transcripts will be published, due to factors including checking procedures to ensure compliance with any non-publication orders made under the ICAC Act. Users are also reminded that they may follow the proceedings in real time if a public inquiry is being live streamed.

Filename Size KB Date pp. Time
01-10-2021 transcript 242 01/10/21 02038-02074 2.00pm to 3.49pm
01-10-2021 transcript 320 01/10/21 01980-02037 10.15am to 1.03pm
30-09-2021 transcript 226 30/09/21 01944-01979 2.15pm to 4.14pm
30-09-2021 transcript 291 30/09/21 01892-01943 10.30am to 1.15pm
29-09-2021 transcript 258 29/09/21 01848-01891 2.00pm to 4.02pm
29-09-2021 transcript 310 29/09/21 01791-01847 10.00am to 1.06pm
27-04-2021 transcript 183 27/04/21 01741-01790 10.00am to 12.59pm
23-04-2021 transcript 211 23/04/21 01713-01740 2.00pm to 3.40pm
23-04-2021 transcript 326 23/04/21 01651-01712 10.00am to 1.07pm
22-04-2021 transcript 307 22/04/21 01605-01650 2.05pm to 4.15pm
22-04-2021 transcript 357 22/04/21 01548-01604 10.05am to 1.03pm
21-04-2021 transcript 303 21/04/21 01494-01547 2.00pm to 4.47pm
21-04-2021 transcript 252 21/04/21 01430-01493 10.00am to 1.07pm
20-04-2021 transcript 247 20/04/21 01376-01429 2.03pm to 4.33pm
20-04-2021 transcript 335 20/04/21 01311-01375 10.00am to 1.03pm
19-04-2021 transcript 172 19/04/21 01263-01310 2.13pm to 4.33pm
19-04-2021 transcript 234 19/04/21 01199-01262 9.30am to 1.11pm
16-04-2021 transcript 299 16/04/21 01123-01198 2.03pm to 5.34pm
16-04-2021 transcript 254 16/04/21 01057-01122 10.06am to 1.21pm
15-04-2021 transcript 387 15/04/21 00999-01056 2.10pm to 4.23pm
15-04-2021 transcript 401 15/04/21 00932-00998 10.00am to 1.08pm
14-04-2021 transcript 271 14/04/21 00891-00931 2.09pm to 4.03pm
14-04-2021 transcript 348 14/04/21 00835-00890 10.13am to 1.04pm
13-04-2021 transcript 334 13/04/21 00783-00834 2.15pm to 4.26pm
13-04-2021 transcript 332 13/04/21 00729-00782 10.04am to 1.14pm
12-04-2021 transcript 261 12/04/21 00692-00728 2.05pm to 4.00pm
12-04-2021 transcript 203 12/04/21 00639-00691 10.04am to 1.03pm
09-04-2021 transcript 209 09/04/21 00592-00638 10.22am to 1.04pm
08-04-2021 transcript 192 08/04/21 00553-00591 02.00pm to 04.01pm
08-04-2021 transcript 257 08/04/21 00505-00552 10.00am to 01.00pm
07-04-2021 transcript 238 07/04/21 00465-00504 2.07pm to 04.11pm
07-04-2021 transcript 191 07/04/21 00411-00464 10.00am to 01.05pm
06-04-2021 transcript 284 06/04/21 00369-00410 02.00pm to 03.57pm
06-04-2021 transcript 219 06/04/21 00313-00368 10.00am to 1.06pm
01-04-2021 transcript 295 01/04/21 00271-00312 02.00pm to 4.06pm
01-04-2021 transcript 304 01/04/21 00225-00270 10.00am to 1.04pm
31-03-2021 transcript 236 31/03/21 00185-00224 2.00pm to 4.04pm
31-03-2021 transcript 286 31/03/21 00150-00184 10.30am to 12.56pm
30-03-2021 transcript 267 30/03/21 00114-00149 2.10pm to 4.10pm
30-03-2021 transcript 167 30/03/21 00070-00113 10.00am to 1.03pm
29-03-2021 transcript 149 29/03/21 00034-00069 2.05pm to 4.03pm
29-03-2021 transcript 135 29/03/21 00001-00033 10.30 am to 01.02pm
Exhibits
Witney Exhibit List
Public notices