Mayor Tom Tate is facing possible misconduct proceedings following an extensive investigation by the State’s corruption watchdog.
He’s also facing pressure over purchases made using council funds, including two ‘selfie sticks’ worth almost $1000.
The Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) had been investigating numerous allegations surrounding Mayor Tate and his Chief-of-staff Wayne Moran.
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A lengthy report stemming from Operation Yabber has been tabled today, delivering a stinging assessment of the actions of Mayor Tate and Mr Moran.
The CCC found no evidence to warrant criminal charges but has referred a number of matters regarding the Mayor to the Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA)
Some of the key findings of the report include that Mr Moran failed to declare conflicts of interest, inappropriately interfered in council business and tried to influence council-decision making.
The CCC found Mayor Tate tried to intervene in a disciplinary process involving Mr Moran, by issuing a direction to the CEO to stop the process.
“The CCC considers the Mayor has misused the powers of section 170 to protect his Chief of Staff from disciplinary action,” the report found.
Mr Moran is currently suspended from his position on full pay.
The CCC ruled Mayor Tate’s actions could amount to misconduct with the matter to be assessed by the OIA, while Mr Moran has been referred to Council’s CEO for disciplinary action.
The report said the investigation highlighted the problems that arise when conflicts of interest aren’t declared and properly managed.
“In relation to Moran, the perception that his friends and associates were the beneficiaries of his position at the GCCC was bad enough. However, it is clear that this was also the reality,” the report said.
An investigation was also launched into some of Mayor Tate’s expenses, including the purchase of handmade leather luggage, following a complaint he had misused Council funds.
It’s also been alleged that Mayor Tate exceeded the limit for using official expenditure for donations by up to ten times.
Other ‘questionable’ items raised by the CCC which will now be examined by the OIA include –
- Two selfie sticks worth $499 each
- Membership of the Gold Coast Titans
- $500 headphones.
- Home media equipment.
- A full business internet service
- Watch batteries.
The Office Of the Independent Assessor has confirmed in a statement that an investigation into Mayor Tate is now underway.
“It is awaiting listing before the tribunal which will determine whether the alleged misconduct is made out and if so, what sanction should apply.” the statement said.
“Given the volume of councillor conduct complaints with the OIA, the matters regarding Mayor Tate are likely to take some months to finalise.”
Mayor Tate has welcomed the report and said it’s actually “fantastic for the city of the Gold Coast.”
“You look at the paragraph, there’s no systematic corruption that’s found whether its councillors, the Mayor or officers of the Gold Coast, so it’s a clean bill of health,” Mayor Tate said.
Mayor Tate has denied any wrongdoing and is confident he will be cleared by the OIA.
“I’ve been referred to OIA over 60 times, I don’t have a batting average because they’ve all been dismissed.
“Am I confident of this? Yes. Am I upset that it’s been referred? No. It’s part of their (the CCC) job to refer because it’s beyond their scope of work.”
Mayor Tate defended his intervention in the disciplinary process surrounding Mr Moran, likening it to a “family argument between two boys.”
“I did it because I thought it was the best way of moving forward.”
He’s also defended the purchase of the two selfie sticks saying they were for recording media while overseas, and one was for his daughter with the money paid back.
Mayor Tate says his others purchases are all above board.
“There’s not even a breach of council policy and the policy’s been revised, there’s nothing wrong there.”
The CCC report and OIA investigation comes just two months before the Council elections where Mayor Tate is gunning for a third term.
Mayoral contender Mona Hecke has called on Mayor Tate to step aside, saying the investigations have cast a shadow over our city.
“We have lost count of how many times Mr Tate has been investigated by the CCC,” Ms Heckie said in a statement.
“It is unthinkable that he can continue as Mayor and contest the election on 28 March as a mayoral candidate.”
“While justice needs to take its course, this matter affirms the deep mistrust in the Mayor that I have been hearing from Gold Coasters as I campaign around the city.”