Georges River Council/Hurstville City Council – allegations concerning former Councillors and others (Operation Galley)
The ICAC investigated whether, between 2014 and 2021, then Hurstville City Council (HCC) and later Georges River Council (GRC) councillors Constantine Hindi and Vincenzo (Vince) Badalati, and then HCC councillor Philip Sansom, sought and/or accepted benefits as an inducement or reward for partially and dishonestly exercising their official functions to favour the interests of Ching Wah (Philip) Uy, Wensheng Liu and Yuqing Liu, in relation to planning matters affecting 1-5 Treacy Street, and 1 Hill Road, Hurstville (“the Treacy Street development”); and 53-57 Forest Road, 108-126 Durham Street and 9 Roberts Lane, Hurstville (“the Landmark Square development”). The Commission also examined whether, during that period, the three councillors deliberately failed to declare or properly manage any conflict of interest arising from their relationships with Mr Uy, Wensheng Liu and Yuqing Liu.
The Commission further investigated whether, also between 2014 and 2021, Mr Uy, Wensheng Liu and Yuqing Liu provided benefits, including overseas flights and accommodation, to the three councillors as a reward or inducement to favour their interests in relation to council decisions regarding planning matters affecting the Treacy Street and Landmark Square developments.
On 22 June 2022, the Commission added a further allegation that, between 16 November 2011 and 9 July 2012, Mr Uy corruptly gave $10,000 cash to then HCC councillor Hindi, as a reward or inducement for Mr Hindi to partially and dishonestly exercise his official functions to favour the interests of Mr Uy and Wensheng Liu in relation to land bounded by Gloucester Road, Carrington Avenue and Garthons Lane, Hurstville (“the Gloucester Road Carpark development”).
In its report on the investigation, made public on 30 August 2023, the Commission makes findings of serious corrupt conduct against Vincenzo Badalati, Constantine Hindi, Philip Sansom and Ching Wah (Philip) Uy.
The ICAC is of the opinion that the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions should be obtained with respect to the prosecution of Vincenzo Badalati, Constantine Hindi, Ching Wah (Philip) Uy and Mireille Hindi.
The Commission has made 11 recommendations to help the Department of Planning and Environment prevent the conduct identified in the investigation from recurring.
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Findings of corrupt conduct
Download the findings of corrupt conduct (pdf)
Recommendations for prosecutions
Download the recommendations for prosecutions (pdf)
Recommendations for disciplinary action
As Vincenzo Badalati, Constantine Hindi and Philip Sansom’s terms as local councillors concluded in December 2021 (Mr Badalati and Mr Hindi) and May 2016 (Mr Sansom), the question of taking any disciplinary action against them for any specified disciplinary offence does not arise.
Recommendations for corruption prevention
The Commission has made 11 recommendations to help the Department of Planning and Environment (“the DPE”) prevent the conduct identified in the investigation from recurring.
That the DPE issues guidelines under s 23A of the Local Government Act 1993 addressing:
- approval and reporting requirements for overseas travel by councillors in an official capacity
- governance and probity guidance about councillors travelling overseas in an official council capacity, including related funding arrangements.
That the Department amends the Model Code of Conduct to prohibit council officials, including councillors, from accepting gifts and benefits (including hospitality and contributions to travel) from property developers. An exemption should be considered for situations where the receipt of hospitality is in connection with a councillor’s attendance at industry briefing, educational, professional development and training events – such as workshops, conferences, seminars, symposiums – that are provided, organised or sponsored by a property developer.
That the Department provides guidelines for councils stating that, when they propose to form an informal committee consisting of councillors, they should establish:
(i) clear terms of reference and objectives for the group, including its role
(ii) governance arrangements, accountability and transparency measures (including proper record-keeping requirements and ensuring the group cannot direct staff)
(iii) an obligation to report in a timely manner on the deliberations of the group to other councillors
(iv) that the group does not have a decision-making function normally carried out through other council processes or activities.
That the DPE also provides guidelines for councils in relation to when it is appropriate or inappropriate to establish informal working groups. For example, whether they should be convened to deal with statutory and administrative decisions including planning and other regulatory and procurement matters.
That the DPE amends the Model Code of Meeting Practice for Local Councils in NSW to require a council’s governing body to provide reasons for approving or rejecting development applications, planning proposals and planning agreements where decisions depart from the recommendations of staff. These reasons should refer to the relevant merits criteria and explain why the decision is more meritorious than the recommended outcome.
That the DPE seeks amendment of the Environmental Planning & Assessment Regulation 2021 to require councils and other planning authorities to demonstrate that the following have been considered before entering into a planning agreement:
- the fundamental principles (2.1) in the Planning Agreements Practice Note 2021
- the acceptability test (2.5) in the Planning Agreements Practice Note 2021
- the methodology or structure that was used to determine the reasonableness of the proposed contribution and its real value
- the public interest.
That the DPE produces guidelines and provides training to assist councillors regarding the proper exercise of their decision-making role in respect of planning agreements.
That the DPE develops guidance on the essential information that must be submitted with an offer of a planning agreement to a council or other planning authority.
That the DPE:
- conducts regular risk-based audits of planning agreements negotiated by councils
- establishes guidelines for conducting risk-based audits
- publishes audit outcomes
- uses the outcomes from audits to improve the processes and procedures governing negotiation and execution of planning agreements.
That the DPE seeks amendment of section 375A of the Local Government Act 1993 to include planning agreements in the definition of planning decisions that require a register of votes to be kept.
That the DPE issues advice to councils and other planning authorities about the need to consider any proposed instrument, including any draft local environmental plan (LEP), when determining a development application. The advice should address the:
- case law and principles established by the courts
- weight to attribute to a draft LEP, with particular regard to its imminence and certainty.
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.