Former Casino Boolangle LALC CEO and officer found corrupt
Thursday 23 February 2017
The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has found that former Casino Boolangle Local Aboriginal Land Council (CBLALC) chief executive officer (CEO) Linda Stewart and former CBLALC administrative officer Veronica Skinner engaged in serious corrupt conduct by dishonestly exercising their functions to obtain money from the CBLALC to which they knew they were not entitled.
In its report, Investigation into the conduct of a Casino Boolangle Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO and administrative officer, released today, the Commission finds that, from about late 2010 to about September 2012, Ms Stewart deceived the CBLALC board members into signing cheques on the basis that they were for legitimate CBLALC purposes, which she then cashed to obtain money for herself and, prior to around October 2011, Ms Skinner, to which she knew she was not entitled.
From about late 2010 to approximately October 2011, Ms Skinner engaged in the same conduct, except she obtained the CBLALC money for herself and Ms Stewart, although she knew neither she nor Ms Stewart were entitled to it.
On the evidence before the Commission, it is not possible to determine the exact amount of money Ms Stewart and Ms Skinner each obtained from the CBLALC, although they both said that they mainly spent the funds they had illegitimately gained from cashing the CBLALC cheques on poker machines. A CBLALC audit letter noted that in the period from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012, a number of cheques totalling over $77,000 had been drawn and cashed without supporting documentation such as an invoice. There was also some evidence that false invoices had been created to provide justification for drawing some of the cheques.
Both Ms Stewart and Ms Skinner gave evidence at the Commission’s public inquiry that they had falsified documents to support the issuing of CBLALC cheques, arranged for the cheques to be signed by CBLALC board members and used the proceeds for their own purposes. They both accepted their acts in doing so where dishonest, involved deception, resulted in diverting money from its rightful owner and constituted a breach of trust placed in them by the CBLALC board members and the local Aboriginal community in general.
Board members signed the cheques because neither Ms Stewart nor Ms Skinner had the authority to do so. While there was a requirement that supporting documentation, such as an invoice, and a form certifying that the relevant goods or services had been provided should be shown to the board members before signing a cheque, evidence before the Commission established that there was often a failure to comply with this requirement. Many board members acknowledged that they had difficulties understanding the financial reports that Ms Stewart presented to them, and the report notes that the limited financial management skills and lack of management experience of board members led to them becoming overly reliant on Ms Stewart. The ICAC has not made any corruption prevention recommendations in this report; evidence obtained during the course of this investigation will help to inform the Commission’s forthcoming report on the governance of LALCs.
The ICAC is of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions with respect to the prosecution of Ms Stewart and Ms Skinner for offences of fraud pursuant to section 192E of the Crimes Act 1900 or, in the alternative, for offences of larceny by a servant pursuant to section 156 of the Crimes Act.