Call to suspend councillor found guilty of taking bribes

THE corruption watchdog has called for the immediate suspension of an Auburn councillor pending his dismissal, after he was found guilty of taking bribes over the development of a karaoke bar.

Cr Jack Au engaged in serious corrupt conduct by accepting thousands of dollars in cash contained in four envelopes passed across the table of an Auburn Chinese restaurant in early 2010 by a local businesswoman, Shu Xiang Liang, a report by the Independent Commission Against Corruption has found.

In hearings conducted in March, the commission heard how Cr Au came undone when Ms Liang, frustrated that her development application was moving slowly, sent a letter of complaint to the council’s director of planning and environment, Mark Brisby.

”Dear Mark … I paid $4500 to Jack for three of you, $1000 each for that day afternoon overtime. And the fifteen hundred dollars for the Construction Certificate fee. So please know I did all the jobs required of me by the council as well as any reports, so I would like to know how long I have to wait…”

This was the first Mr Brisby had heard of the payments, and he alerted the council’s general manager, John Burgess, who reported the incident to the corruption watchdog.

Subsequently, Mr Burgess was forced to resort to legal action to protect his job and status as a whistleblower due to hostilities from some councillors.

The commission accepted that Ms Liang intended that Mr Brisby and Glenn Francis, the other planning officer handling the application, each receive $1000 while Cr Au kept the remaining two envelopes of cash totalling $2500.

The commission did not accept Cr Au’s explanation that Ms Liang had given him the money for building and pest control advice he had given in a private capacity. Instead, the commission found that he kept all the money for himself because he knew the payments were improper.

The commission has recommended that Cr Au be suspended from civic office with a view to his dismissal for serious corrupt conduct.

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