ICAC finds corrupt conduct against individual for attempting to offer cash to Strathfield Council GM
Thursday 13 May 2010
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has found that David Pyo engaged in corrupt conduct by sending $2,000 cash to Strathfield Council General Manager David Backhouse. Mr Pyo intended or expected Mr Backhouse to keep the money for his personal use in return for favourable treatment involving negotiations for a licence agreement concerning a Council property at Homebush.
In its report on an Investigation into the offer of a corrupt payment to an officer of Strathfield Municipal Council, released today, the Commission has also recommended that the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) be sought with respect to the prosecution of Mr Pyo for an offence of offering a corrupt benefit contrary to section 249B(2) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
The Commission has also made five corruption prevention recommendations to Strathfield Council, and one to the Department of Premier and Cabinet that its Local Government Division issue a Circular to all local councils in NSW to communicate anti-corruption messages to their communities in relevant languages for their areas.
The report says that on 2 December 2009, Mr Pyo met with the Council's Manager of Community Services, Michael Chau, and gave him a sealed envelope to give to Mr Backhouse. The envelope bore the Australian Korean Welfare Association (of which Mr Pyo is a director) stamp and had the handwritten words on the back of the envelope: "from David Pyo". Mr Chau gave the envelope to Mr Backhouse who, upon opening the envelope, found a Christmas card, $2,000 in $100 notes and a note with the handwritten words: "Hello David. Thank you for your advice and help. Thank you form (sic) David". Mr Backhouse reported the matter to the ICAC.
Mr Pyo later claimed at a Commission public inquiry held on 18 February 2010 that the $2,000 was for a Council staff Christmas party. The Commission rejected this evidence and is satisfied that if Mr Pyo had really intended the money be used for a party, he would have made that clear in the handwritten note. The "party" was also not mentioned in a later telephone conversation with Mr Backhouse during which, at the Commission's request, Mr Backhouse contacted Mr Pyo and discussed the card and money.
At the public inquiry, Mr Pyo claimed that it was a Korean custom to give a small gift at Christmas time but he also said that if money was given with an expectation of getting something in return, the payment was considered illegal in Korea. The Commission is satisfied that Mr Pyo knew that it was wrong to offer money to a public official with the expectation that the official would do something in return.
However, the report notes that in the last 18 months, the Commission has conducted three other public inquiries where some sort of payment was made to a public official. In all these matters, including this one, the persons making the payments or inducements did not have English as their first language. "This investigation has further highlighted the need for councils across NSW to examine their local area population and undertake a campaign in relevant languages, including English, which sends a clear message that bribes and non-token gifts are not acceptable and will be reported to the Commission," the report says.