Report recommends investigation into council
A NSW parliamentary inquiry has recommended that the government investigate The Hills Shire Council and consider putting it into administration.
It follows an inquiry into allegations of potentially serious corruption involving the north-western Sydney council, Liberal Party members and a developer.
The Upper House Planning and Environment Committee says after a three month investigation serious allegations of corruption by members of the Liberal Party in the Hills Shire remain unanswered thanks to a “co-ordinated, deliberate and serious efforts to evade scrutiny by key witnesses”.
“A New South Wales parliamentary committee has never been faced with such serious, deliberate and co-ordinated attempts by witnesses to evade service of a summons,” it says in a report tabled last week.
Those witnesses included Liberal party state executive member Christian Ellis, Hills Shire councillor Virginia Ellis, Liberal Party figures Jean-Claude Perrottet and Charles Perrottet – the brothers of Premier Dominic Perrottet – and Sydney developer Jean Nassif.
Call for new inquiry
The Committee recommended that the Minister for Local Government undertake an investigation into The Hills Shire Council and consider what steps should be taken, including whether the Council should be put into administration.
It also says the inquiry has raised questions that are “too serious to leave unanswered” and recommends that a new inquiry be established in the next parliament.
“Essential to that will be the involvement of Christian Ellis, Charles Perrottet, Jean-Claude Perrottet and Jean Nassif,” the committee says.
The report has also recommended that the influence of property developers in the Hills Shire region be referred to ICAC.
Allegations of impropriety against agents of Hills Shire Council and property developers in the region were raised under parliamentary privilege by MP Ray Williams in June last year.
The allegations concerned what Mr Williams said was collusion between members of the Liberal party and a developer to replace elected members of The Hills Shire Council with new councillors who would support the interests of Mr Nassif.
Their co-ordinated, deliberate and serious efforts to evade scrutiny inevitably leave the perception that there is something to hide.
NSW Upper House Planning and Environment Committee
The committee also considered allegations relating to branch stacking by the NSW Liberal Party in the Hills Shire region.
The committee says the available evidence added weight to allegations that Mr Nassif met with Mr Ellis and other senior members of the Liberal Party, who were paid “significant funds” to arrange to put new councillors on The Hills Shire Council who would support development applications by Mr Nassif’s company Toplace.
The lack of cooperation from key witnesses in this inquiry meant that serious allegations of corruption had gone unanswered, the committee said.
The lengths that some witnesses went to to avoid scrutiny had inevitably created the perception that “there is something to hide,” the report concludes.
In December 2022, NSW Fair Trading moved to suspend Jean Nassif’s building licence for 10 years and permanently revoke Toplace’s licence over improper conduct.
Mr Nassif and the company successfully argued for a stay on the bans before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which heard the suspensions exposed the parties to breaching contracts worth tens of millions of dollars.
Legal action is ongoing.
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