Ex-NSW MP Ivan Petch has been suspended from his duties as a councillor in Sydney after being found to have acted corruptly.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on Monday ruled the former mayor of Ryde City council had acted corruptly by releasing information about porn found on a council employee’s laptop.
The ICAC recommended Petch be dismissed and charges laid against him after he was found to have corruptly released “confidential information concerning the discovery of adult material” on former council general manager John Neish’s laptop.
Mr Petch, who had been serving as a Ryde City councillor until Monday, released the information to various people in an attempt to “encourage its reporting in the media so as to undermine Mr Neish’s credibility and reputation”, the watchdog said.
Soon after porn was discovered in 2013 on his computer, Mr Neish resigned from the council.
Although the material had been located on Mr Neish’s computer, that, in itself, did not establish that he was responsible for the material being there, the watchdog said.
Within hours of the findings, NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole suspended the former Liberal MP.
“I expect councillors to adhere to the highest of standards, standards that the community would expect of their elected officials,” Mr Toole said.
“Mr Petch will now be given 28 days to respond to the suspension.”
The former MP held the seat of Gladesville from 1988 to 1995.
Mr Neish said earlier on Monday that he had been vindicated by the findings.
“I thank those honest, ethical, councillors and staff and others who displayed bravery and integrity in standing up to the intimidation which was designed to support corruption in Ryde,” he said in a statement.
“I also thank the many people who supported me throughout this ordeal.”
The ICAC also found Mr Petch deliberately released confidential advice from the Department of Planning and Infrastructure to his publicist Anthony Stavrinos so that it be given to property developer John Goubran and used by him for his benefit.
Mr Goubran engaged in corrupt conduct by having real estate agent Tony Abboud threaten Mr Neish, implying his position of general manager would not be safe after the 2012 local government elections unless he agreed to establish a community consultative committee to consider the Ryde civic precinct redevelopment.
The move was aimed at delaying the redevelopment until after the elections.
Mr Petch also attempted to improperly influence acting general manager Danielle Dickson to resolve in favour of six defendant councillors – including himself – in an ongoing Supreme Court case.
He implicitly threatened her that if she did not do so, he and his fellow defendant councillors would not support her application to be appointed to the position of general manager, the ICAC said.
In addition to Mr Petch, the commission said consideration should be given to charging Mr Goubran, Mr Stavrinos and two other people for various offences.