Georges River Council/Hurstville City Council – allegations concerning former Councillors and others (Operation Galley)

Year: 2023 Status: Completed

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, Mireille Hindi and Philip Sansom.

The Commission has made 11 recommendations to help the Department of Planning and Environment prevent the conduct identified in the investigation from recurring.

View the Operation Galley submissions timetable

Download the public inquiry Covid-19 protocol (PDF)

Download the Operation Galley Media Guidelines (PDF)

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.

Recommendation 1

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.

Recommendation 2

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.

Recommendation 3

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.

Recommendation 4

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.

Recommendation 5

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.

Recommendation 6

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.

Recommendation 7

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.

Recommendation 8

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.

Recommendation 9

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.

Recommendation 10

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.

Recommendation 11

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.
Media Releases
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
03-08-2022 transcript 234 03/08/22 2127-2178 2.00pm to 3.54pm
03-08-2022 transcript 351 03/08/22 2042-2126 10.00am to 1.01pm
02-08-2022 transcript 266 02/08/22 1991-2041 2.00pm to 3.53pm
02-08-2022 transcript 369 02/08/22 1903-1990 10.00am to 1.10pm
01-08-2022 transcript 332 01/08/22 1845-1902 2.00pm to 4.09pm.
01-08-2022 transcript 331 01/08/22 1769-1844 10.00am to 1.07pm
20-07-2022 transcript 303 20/07/22 1691-1768 10.00am to 1.34pm
19-07-2022 transcript 225 19/07/22 1642-1690 2.00pm to 4.02pm
19-07-2022 transcript 249 19/07/22 1585-1641 9.45am to 1.03pm
18-07-2022 transcript 154 18/07/22 1562-1584 2.00pm to 3.47pm
18-07-2022 transcript 290 18/07/22 1496-1561 10.00am to 1.10pm
15-07-2022 transcript 163 15/07/22 1470-1495 2.00pm to 3.45pm
15-07-2022 transcript 297 15/07/22 1400-1469 10.00am to 1.04pm
14-07-2022 transcript 260 14/07/22 1345-1399 2.00pm to 4.01pm
14-07-2022 transcript 201 14/07/22 1307-1344 10.00am to 1.13pm
13-07-2022 transcript 183 13/07/22 1272-1306 2.00pm to 4.01pm
13-07-2022 transcript 205 13/07/22 1233-1271 10.00am to 1.13pm
12-07-2022 transcript 192 12/07/22 1201-1232 2.00pm to 4.10pm
12-07-2022 transcript 185 12/07/22 1167-1200 10.00am to 1.03pm
08-07-2022 transcript 116 08/07/22 1157-1166 10.00am to 11.30am
07-07-2022 transcript 188 07/07/22 1124-1156 10.30am to 1.02pm
06-07-2022 transcript 163 06/07/22 1098-1123 2.00pm to 3.50pm
06-07-2022 transcript 184 06/07/22 1061-1097 10.00am to 12.59pm
05-07-2022 transcript 169 05/07/22 1032-1060 2.00pm to 4.05pm
05-07-2022 transcript 286 05/07/22 0964-1031 10.00am to 12.59pm
04-07-2022 transcript 253 04/07/22 0906-0936 2.00pm to 4.04pm
01-07-2022 transcript 155 01/07/22 0882-0905 2.00pm to 3.44pm
01-07-2022 transcript 187 01/07/22 0849-0881 10.00am to 1.02pm
30-06-2022 transcript 184 30/06/22 0814-0848 1.45pm to 4.03pm
30-06-2022 transcript 235 30/06/22 0763-0813 10.00am to 12.35pm
29-06-2022 transcript 228 29/06/22 0714-0762 2.00pm to 4.03pm
29-06-2022 transcript 283 29/06/22 0648-0713 10.00am to 12.58pm
28-06-2022 transcript 245 28/06/22 0606-0647 2.00pm to 3.44pm
28-06-2022 transcript 239 28/06/22 0557-0605 10.00am to 1.00pm
27-06-2022 transcript 241 27/06/22 0520-0556 1.45pm to 4.04pm
27-06-2022 transcript 203 27/06/22 0482-0519 10.00am to 12.45pm
24-06-2022 transcript 205 24/06/22 0445-0481 2.00pm to 4.04pm
24-06-2022 transcript 271 24/06/22 0387-0444 10.00am to 1.02pm
23-06-2022 transcript 233 23/06/22 0344-0386 2.00pm to 4.05pm
23-06-2022 transcript 333 23/06/22 0267-0343 9.30am to 1.04pm
22-06-2022 transcript 279 22/06/22 0209-0266 2.00pm to 4.22pm
22-06-2022 transcript 272 22/06/22 0154-0208 10.00am to 1.10pm
15-06-2022 transcript 251 15/06/22 0098-0153 10.00am to 1.03pm
14-06-2022 transcript 199 14/06/22 0060-0097 2.00pm to 3.49pm
14-06-2022 transcript 281 14/06/22 0001-0059 10.00am to 1.05pm
Exhibits
Public notices