Logan councillor Russell Lutton removes a painting from a house in June.
Logan councillor Russell Lutton removes a painting from a house in June.

Veteran councillor fails to declare conflict

LOGAN'S longest-serving councillor has admitted he failed to declare a conflict of interest when he voted on a controversial $750 million development project linked to a political donor.

Planning committee chairman Russell Lutton was ordered to make an "admission of error" at today's public council meeting, after an investigation by a State Government disciplinary panel.

It is understood a complaint was first made to the Crime and Corruption Commission earlier this year over Cr Lutton voting on the contentious $750 million proposal for a 1500-unit resort on the banks of the Logan River at Carbrook.

The complaint was then referred to the Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal for investigation.

It examined whether Cr Lutton, a veteran councillor of 33 years, had a conflict of interest when he voted on the development application for "The Lakes" project by the Chinese-Australian developer Liansheng Yue's Australian SN International Investment Group.

The project includes a hotel, convention centre and restaurant.

Council minutes show Cr Lutton declared a perceived conflict of interest when the application went to a meeting for a vote in early 2017, as his daughter was an "accounts administration manager for the applicant/applicant's consultant".

Cr Lutton decided it was in the public interest to stay in the meeting and vote on the planning application as permitted under the Local Government Act, according to the meeting minutes.

 

Russell Lutton is a veteran councillor of over three decades.
Russell Lutton is a veteran councillor of over three decades.

 

But at the time he made no mention of having received a $1600 political donation from the developer's consultant, Yatala-based company Gassman Development Perspectives.

Gassman had submitted The Lakes planning application to council, according to planning documents.

Cr Lutton only declared the Gassman donation to the Electoral Commission of Queensland last May - over two years after the 2016 council election.

That is despite a requirement to declare donations within 15 weeks of polling day.

The Gassman donation was one of nine late donation declarations by Cr Lutton, totalling $10,800.

According to Cr Lutton's amended donation disclosure in May, the company paid for a table of 10 to his 2016 election campaign launch.

Cr Lutton told The Courier-Mail today the matter had been investigated and his penalty was to make an admission of error.

"At the time I declared a conflict of interest because my daughter worked for Gassmans, but I stayed in and voted because I was under the belief that that was sufficient," he said.

"In the light of my amended electoral return, it became apparent that I should have declared a conflict…. and that's the penalty: an admission of error."

Cr Lutton also told today's meeting that his vote made no difference to the outcome of the decision.

He ended the interview when asked by The Courier-Mail to explain the two-year lapse in declaring over $10,000 in donations.

"I've said enough," he said, before walking off.

It is understood Cr Lutton's late donation declaration to the ECQ came as the CCC began examining Logan councillors' campaign bank accounts.

The CCC has been probing a range of allegations involving the council, including whether councillors broke the law earlier this year by dumping council's chief executive officer Sharon Kelsey.

Ms Kelsey was a CCC whistleblower against now suspended mayor Luke Smith when her job was terminated.

Smith was charged in March by the CCC with official corruption and perjury in connection with another developer, SKL Cables, which had development proposal in Springwood.

He has said he will vigorously defend the charges and has denied wronging in relation to Ms Kelsey's sacking.

Cr Lutton has also faced conflict-of-interest allegations over his involvement in planning changes in Springwood.

He was the chairman of the planning committee when he put forward recommendations in March last year to cut infrastructure charges on certain developments by up to $1 million and relax car parking requirements.

The recommendations were supported by council's planning committee and adopted by council a week later, with Cr Lutton and nine other councillors voting in favour of the changes.

It was only revealed by Cr Lutton in his late donation disclosures to the ECQ that had received a $5000 donation from Springwood shopping centre owner Chin Hong Investments Corporation.

The revelation triggered conflict of interest allegations by Logan councillor Lisa Bradley.

Cr Bradley called for Cr Lutton to step aside from the planning committee. Cr Lutton has denied any wrongdoing.

According to Cr Lutton's ECQ disclosure, Chin Hong donated $5000 to his campaign when it bought a painting by local artist Don Waters at an auction held during his 2016 campaign launch.

But in a twist, Cr Lutton was photographed by The Courier-Mail in June carrying a Donald Waters painting out of a house where he had intermittently lived. He then refused to comment on why he still had the painting.

Chin Hong Investments Corporation manager Jenshuo Wen at the time confirmed donating $5000, but said he was unaware of the painting or auction.

Chin Hong also donated $33,800 to Luke Smith's mayoral campaign, but Mr Wen rejected the company had discussed planning matters with him. "We just want to see Logan do well," he said.

 

 

Logan councillor Russell Lutton removes a painting from a house in June.
Logan councillor Russell Lutton removes a painting from a house in June.