Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Tate under investigation...

Mayor John Tate is being investigated over political donations.

Lord Mayor John Tate investigated


NEWCASTLE Lord Mayor JohnTate is being investigated by Newcastle City Council over his relationship with businessmanCon Constantine.

Council city engagement director Martin Coates confirmed lastnight that a ‘code of conduct’ investigation was under way.

The investigation is being carried out by Newcastle barrister Mark Brady, who described himself yesterday as one of a panel of practitioners hired by the council to do arm’s-length investigations.

Cr Tate said last night from Singapore, where he was on a short break, he knew a code of conduct matter was under way but he was surprised to find that members of the public were being interviewed about it.

"All that’s happened is that [council general manager] Lindy Hyam told me about a fortnight ago there was a matter to be finalised but that was about it," Cr Tate said.

He said it was ridiculous to suggest that he was influenced by any campaign donations from Mr Constantine or his companies or that he had acted in any way in breach of council procedures.

He said he was yet to be interviewed in relation to the code of conduct investigation and would be ‘having something to say’ if he was not given the chance to respond.

Maryville resident Martin Breen said he had lodged a complaint against Cr Tate over an April 21 vote that was viewed by some at the time as helping to pave the way for Mr Constantine’s proposed Maryville markets.

On that night, Cr Tate used his casting vote to allow a change to the Newcastle Local Environment Plan to be put on public display.

A plan for the markets and a draft amendment to the local environment plan have been put on display but a vote is yet to take place.

Mr Breen said he had lodged the complaint because he believed Cr Tate had previously abstained from voting on matters involving Mr Constantine and he believed he should have done so in this case.

He said regulations to the Local Government Act stated that "perceptions of a conflict of interest are as important as actual conflicts of interest".

The Herald report of the April 21 meeting said that Cr Tate had declared donations to his 2007 state election campaign from a Constantine company before using his casting vote to break a 5-5 deadlock.

Last night, Cr Tate said he voted that way in order give the public a chance to evaluate the proposal rather than have it killed off by "a handful of objectors".

Mr Constantine said he was disappointed and saddened by the accusations against the mayor.

He said the mutual business friendship would have no influence over Cr Tate’s decisions.

"Absolutely not, no way, nothing at all to do with it," Mr Constantine said.

He said Cr Tate was motivated by a desire for the future growth of Newcastle.

"Here is a man trying to create 1200 jobs for Newcastle and we’ve got some people out there accusing him of bias."

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