Council cleared, Hadley wrong

Radio shock jock Ray Hadley's allegations against Blue Mountains Council have been comprehensively rejected for a second time by the commissioner conducting the public inquiry.

Ray Hadley. Image

Ray Hadley. Image

It was Hadley's on-air claims of a "boys' club" at council, giving jobs to mates, not following procedures when awarding "lucrative contracts", "corruption" among senior officers, doctored documents and a "protection racket" that led in part to the public inquiry into council.

But in his second interim report, just published online on the local government inquiry website, commissioner Richard Beasley, SC, said Hadley was wrong.

The allegations related to the employment of a number of senior staff, including Mark Mulligan as a safety consultant and later director of service delivery, John Hargreaves to lead a business improvement project, Stuart Liddell as acting general manager and Rosemary Dillon as general manager.

Hadley made claims of conflicts of interest, saying that some staff were only employed because they were "great mates" with those doing the hiring, or that others were not qualified but still given the jobs.

Separately, Cr Kerry Brown alleged that Mr Liddell and Ms Dillon were employed as "captain's picks" by the mayor to ensure that council's top positions were held by people sympathetic to council's asbestos response.

Mr Beasley rejected all allegations.

Claims rejected: Cr Kerry Brown

Claims rejected: Cr Kerry Brown

He found Mr Mulligan was well qualified and appointed through a proper recruitment process; there was no breach of the legislation in Mr Hargeaves' appointment; and there was no "captain's pick" for general manager.

Mr Beasley found "no substance" in any of Hadley's allegations.

"The assertions made by Mr Hadley during his radio broadcasts on 17 and 20 November, 2017, and 13 December, 2017, are wrong."

He continued: "The evidence does not support a finding that any of the council, its senior staff or the governing body breached any of the provisions of the Local Government Act."

Last year, Mr Beasley looked into the appointment of two investigators - one to examine asbestos issues and the other to canvas allegations over the appointment of Mr Mulligan as a safety consultant.

He found the investigator employed by council to look into asbestos mismanagement had no conflict of interest and again concluded that Hadley's allegations of impropriety were wrong.

Mr Beasley, in his most recent report, also considered claims about the "culture" at council, in particular whether there was a consultative and supportive working environment.

He found it was.

"I am comfortably satisfied that the council and its governing body has facilitated a 'consultative and supportive work environment' in accordance with the general principle outlined in [the Local Government Act]."

But he did find that in one case, two workers at council's stores had been the victims of a badly worded report that suggested theft may have occurred, instead of saying that there was a "risk" of theft.

Mr Beasley said the two men had every right to feel "aggrieved" and that resolving their grievance took too long.

"This was a matter that should have taken weeks or at most a few months to resolve finally, not well over a year."

The final part of the public inquiry, which deals with the allegations about asbestos handling or mishandling, begins hearings on Monday, March 9, at 9.30am in the Cultural Centre at Katoomba. They are scheduled to run until Friday, April 3. Information about the hearings is available on the inquiry website.