Byron councillor Wanchap censured over conflict breach

Byron Shire Cr Rose Wanchap, a real-estate agency owner, would be banned from being a councillor under a Labor plan

Byron Shire Cr Rose Wanchap, a real-estate agency owner, has been censured over a breach of council’s code of conduct.

Hans Lovejoy

A state-government investigation into a complaint against Cr Rose Wanchap was tabled at last week’s Byron Shire Council meeting, resulting in her being censured by her fellow councillors for breaching the Code of Conduct policy.

Held in confidential session in the afternoon, the mayor used his casting vote to support a motion which says she failed to ‘acknowledge and declare a significant non-pecuniary conflict of interests… thereby failing to manage the conflict in accordance with the Code of Conduct.’

The motion also says the matter will ‘be referred to the division for further action under the misconduct provisions of the Act.’

Echonetdaily understands the  ‘division’ is the office of local government, while a first- time ‘censure’ has no ramifications or consequences.

The original complaint, which is said to be 150 pages long, is by David Beattie from the Nungkari Treatment Centre, based in Myocum.

It was taken seriously enough to be reviewed by the Office of Local Government, which reported that Cr Wanchap ‘may have had a non-pecuniary conflict of interest’ when she voted on a DA approval.

Echonetdaily understands that the code of conduct complaint relates to a possible conflict of interest with Cr Wanchap’s potential investment in a competing health centre.

At the October 1, 2015 council meeting, Cr Wanchap abstained on voting on a DA for Nungkari Treatment Centre owing to a potential pecuniary interest.

Yet when the original DA was approved on May 1, 2014, Cr Wanchap voted against the motion, which subsequently sparked the complaint by Mr Beattie.

Echonetdaily asked Cr Wanchap last year whether she operated a health facility as of her voting on May 1, 2015.

Cr Wanchap replied at the time, ‘It is a grey area since it is not my facility. It is owned by a member of my family and they only purchased it a few months ago so there was no pecuniary interest at that time.’

‘Nor is there probably an interest now, but I felt it was better to be on the safe side.’

During morning public access, mayor Simon Richardson insisted councillors treat the matter as confidential, and attempted to limit discussion.

But it was largely to no avail; a testy Crs Di Woods and Chris Cubis accused Mr Beattie of getting ‘coaching’ over the complaint, and questioned why he would pursue the issue given he was awarded the DA for his treatment centre anyway.

Mr Beattie told the chamber he wanted the confidential report made public.

‘If this council wants to be held in esteem by the community, and have its integrity maintained, then they will make this matter public. And they will take relevant action to redress these matters. In our society today, we don’t have enough of that…’

Cr Sol Ibrahim then attempted to wedge Mr Beattie over ‘following the law’ owing to Mr Beattie wanting the document to be made public.

Cr Ibrahim said, ‘Do you believe personally, and on behalf of the community, that the community should respect the law in terms of what can and can’t be made public?’

Mr Beattie replied it was a good question. ‘In this instance, the issue has been investigated and a report has been presented to council.

‘Had they been just allegations, I think confidentiality should apply. [But] in this instance it is [more than allegations].

So how legally binding are confidential report?

Echonetdaily asked council’s legal services co-ordinator Ralph James if there is there a ‘law’ that would be broken by releasing the confidential report, or is it simply a policy.

He replied, ‘The report of the Code of Conduct reviewer was received and considered by council in confidential session.’

‘Council’s resolution, as per the minutes, is public. Confidentiality is applied as per council’s Code of Conduct and Procedures for the Administration of Council’s Code of Conduct – both of which are policies.

‘[It] is a matter for any person who is not subject to Council’s Code of Conduct.’

6 responses to “Byron councillor Wanchap censured over conflict breach”

  1. Frank says:

    Following is the alternate motion put up, and voted for, by members of the gang of five to protect their mate and fifth member Rose Wanchap. In a democracy where there is accountability the reasons given to not apply.Following is an extract from council meeting miutes.

    “3. Whilst the misconduct warrants a censure and consideration of sanctions available under the
    Section 440I of the Local Government Act, the misconduct does not warrant suspension from
    civic office.
    4. Council’s reasons to be reported to the Office of Local Government are:
    a) Councillors have received only basic instructions regarding the Code of Conduct and
    Misconduct provisions of the Act.
    b) Councillor Wanchap is a first-time Councillor who failed to understand the particular
    characteristics and significance of non-pecuniary conflicts of interests.
    c) This failure was not wilful or intentional. It was an ignorance of the Code of Conduct and
    the Act.
    d) Councillor Wanchap has been under severe emotional stress due to her mother’s
    terminal illness throughout 2014, and subsequent death 2015.
    e) At the time that the DA in question came before Council on 1st May 2014, Councillor
    Wanchap had been a Director of the I Medicine Unit Trust since 4 August 2011.
    Throughout this time, this Trust had not engaged in any business activity and held
    assets of just $200.
    f) It was not until 27 June 2015 that Councillor Wanchap’s daughter and son-in-law
    commenced operating a health clinic.
    g) The ‘business case’ dated 17 March 2014 referred to in the investigator’s report was a
    professional application by Councillor Wanchap’s daughter and son-in-law (a naturopath
    and psychologist respectively) for the use of the soon to be disused Byron Hospital. The
    application failed. The business case did not relate to the health lodge business
    commenced in June 2015.
    h) Suspension from civic office is the most severe sanction for misconduct under the Act.
    Such a sanction should be reserved for misconduct that relates to actual or expected
    significant financial gain for a Councillor and or the relatives of a Councillor. There is
    no such finding in the investigator’s report. (Ibrahim/Woods)”

    Whilst there is sympathy for Rose Wanchap’s mother dying, the decision made by her was a gross misconduct on her part in that she made an alternate motion that potentially could economically benefit her daughter and son in law.

  2. Frankly says:

    Frank I think the releasing of the confidential document above helps to clarify Rose’s position. Thank you.

    a) When she voted on Nungkari, The Health Lodge was not even in existence and may never have even come into existence. I guess Rose should have used her telepathic powers to have envisage it would a year later.

    b) Nungkari is a Drug and Alcohol Rehab centre (Transitional Home) and The Health Lodge an Integrated Medical practice. It does not offer addiction or transitional homes services. These businesses are different.

    c) The Nungkari DA was successful at the time despite the neighbours united opposition against this business in their residential area. ie Rose opposing vote had absolutely no influence on the outcome.

    It turned into a witch hunt as the experience prosecutor of 30 years meticulously trawled through reams of data to find flimsy tenuous connections but the proponent was initially seeking substantial financial compensation for their … business which he wasn’t successful in doing.

    Meanwhile the rate payers will be picking up the substantial tab for the horrible waste of everybody’s time.

    • Frank says:

      Frankly, your response sounds like the type of propaganda that would be put out by one of the gang of five. Admittedly, probably the only one who can put sentences together with correct punctuation.

      The material that you refer to comes from the minutes of the last Council meeting which is on public display on Council’s website. You can make as many excuses as you like for Wanchap’s behaviour, but the bottom line is she is guilty of breaking the Code of Conduct and deserves to be censured.

    • Harold says:

      Frankly mate you are really not very concerned about what you perceive as a so called “injustice” that has been given to Rosalind. Your only concern is that the gang of five will lose the fifth vote!

    • John says:

      Frankly, don’t be a hypocrite. You have just described Council’s barrister who wrote this confidential report. I was not aware of the author but you let the cat out of the bag. Think before you open your mouth. Any one who follows legal cases undertaken by Council know the name of this barrister and that he was a highly respected NSW Crown Prosecutor for many years. Barristers don’t come cheap. Study hard and you might be able to charge the same fees in the future.

      You are a hypocrite because the construction of the Belongil rock wall cost over a million. Only the gang of five voted for this and the large majority of ratepayers did not want their rates used in this way .Council’s barrister fees for this legal and compulsory investigation are miniscule compared to the waste of ratepayers money at Belongil.

  3. m gardner says:

    Council meeting minutes are NOT confidential. The extract above is the terms of an amendment which failed. Because it failed, the State department of local government will ONLY receive the following resolution from this council, a resolution which was a motion passed with the Mayor’s casting vote:

    1. That the report of the Code of Conduct Reviewer and its findings be noted and its recommendations adopted.

    2. That pursuant to the provisions of clause 8.56 e) of Council’s Procedures for the Administration of Council’s Code of Conduct:

    Cr Wanchap be and is hereby censured for her breach of Council’s Code of Conduct by failing to acknowledge and declare a significant non-pecuniary conflict of interests, and thereby failing to manage the conflict in accordance with the Code of Conduct, and that the matter be referred to the Division for further action under the misconduct provisions of the Act. (Dey/Richardson)

    How did the votes go? From the minutes:
    The amendment (Ibrahim/Woods) was put to the vote and declared tied.
    Crs Dey, Richardson, Cameron and Spooner voted against the amendment.
    The Mayor used his casting vote and declared the amendment lost.
    Cr Wanchap was not present for the vote.

    The motion was put to the vote and declared tied.
    Crs Ibrahim, Cubis, Woods and Hunter voted against the motion.
    The Mayor used his casting vote and declared the motion carried.
    Cr Wanchap was not present for the vote.

    The State will then act according to these rules choosing from eight different actions

    What will the State decide? And whatever that decision, given that the assessors report is confidential, how is the community to know that whatever warranted a censure is not continued or repeated by the councillor in question?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Echonetdaily is made possible by the support of all of our advertisers and is brought to you by this week's sponsors Artstate Lismore and NORPA. Sponsors-747-ArtState-NORPA-480px