'HIGH RISK': How councillors kept Moran complaint secret

 

GOLD Coast City councillors voted to keep secret the mayoral directive which stopped CEO Dale Dickson from taking action against Tom Tate's "high risk" chief of staff Wayne Moran.

Council documents show that at two meetings four councillors - Glenn Tozer, William Owen-Jones, Daphne McDonald and Peter Young - attempted to have Mr Dickson assess the directives.

The Crime and Corruption report released on Friday detailed how Mr Dickson issued Mr Moran with a disciplinary letter in late 2015 after he refused to declare a conflict of interest.

Mayor Tate later sent the CEO a mayoral directive demanding that he close the case.

The Bulletin can reveal Cr Tozer, who had sought advice from the Director General, gained support at committee from then governance chair William Owen-Jones and Cr McDonald for the CEO to write up a report after assessing the directives.

Cr Peter Young attempted to have Mr Dickson assess the directives. PicAdamHead
Cr Peter Young attempted to have Mr Dickson assess the directives. PicAdamHead

At the governance committee meeting on December 6, 2017, Cr Paul Taylor voted against and Cr Kristyn Boulton abstained. Donna Gates and Dawn Crichlow were absent.

The committee recommendation was considered two days later at full council but the debate went into closed and none of the information could be made public.

Cr Tozer told the Bulletin yesterday: "It would be fair to say some councillors took the opportunity in closed session (at full council) to criticise my actions and scrutinise the recommendation (made at committee). I did not get an opportunity to respond to their criticism."

Cr Tozer rose to speak in open session but a motion by Cr Gates enabled Cr Hermann Vorster to make a "put" motion - stopping debate - abandoning the committee recommendation.

Only Peter Young voted against and Cr McDonald abstained. Cr Tozer and Cr Owen-Jones felt constrained by the attachment being kept confidential for staffing reasons, and voted for, along with councillors Cameron Caldwell, Hermann Vorster, Dawn Crichlow, Gary Baildon, Gail O'Neill, Bob La Castra, Boulton, Donna Gates, Pauline Young, Taylor and Mayor Tate.

"I do not believe the public interest was served at this point, given the gravity of the matter, particularly now that the CCC report is published," Cr Tozer said.

The issue first became public late last year. Pic by Richard Gosling
The issue first became public late last year. Pic by Richard Gosling

"While I wanted the matter dealt with confidentially to respect due process for staff, I was grieved by the way the matter was debated and concluded, and I have no regrets about subsequently referring the matter to the department as a complaint.

"I made the decision to do so during the meeting, realising I lacked the support of enough of my colleagues to have the matter referred willingly."

In early 2018, the Bulletin published a report about mayoral directives but could not release Mr Moran's name for legal reasons, nor would he comment. The Mayor and CEO declined to comment at the time, saying they respected the confidentiality of the CCC.

Cr Tate yesterday said the issue was debated and led to a majority vote.

"While I don't recall the specifics of that debate, I note that two of the three councillors who initially voted for the recommendation at committee, ultimately voted at full council to not adopt the committee recommendation. This resulted in - 13 in favour, one against, one abstained. Motion carried," he said.

Mr Moran said he was “pleased” with the outcome.. Picture Mike Batterham
Mr Moran said he was “pleased” with the outcome.. Picture Mike Batterham

Talking about the mayoral directive on Friday, Cr Tate maintained he intervened "for the betterment of the city". Mr Moran told the Bulletin he was "pleased and not surprised that the CCC confirmed no corruption nor anything criminal on my part. I was never in any doubt of that outcome".

But Cr Tozer said: "It is my personal view that the Mayor should not have presided over and voted on a matter that related to an independent review of his own actions and interests. That is not good governance. Frankly, our council can and should do better."

In the 84-page CCC report, the State corruption watchdog found Mr Moran had allegedly innapropriately interfered with council business.

No criminal charges will be laid from Operation Yabber however Cr Tate has been referred to the Office of the Independent Assessor for alleged misconduct after blocking a disciplinary investigation into his chief of staff.

Mr Dickson who conducted a long process from 2013-15 to get Mr Moran to declare conflicts of interests regarded him as "a high risk individual" some councillors and staff felt that he was "untouchable" after being the subject of mayoral directive by Cr Tate.

On Friday, the Mayor said he had no knowledge of Mr Moran involving himself in matters before council linked to two companies.

On Sunday, the Bulletin asked what information he had before he made the mayoral direction, and the basis on which he chose to side with Mr Moran. Cr Tate declined to comment.

"I will be making no further comment at this time. I've said my piece and we now need to let the process take its course," he said.