22 March 2022

Fresh misconduct allegation against councillor Rod Kendall invokes historic investigation

| Max O'Driscoll
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Council Chambers building

Wagga Wagga City Council has lodged a report with the Office of Local Government about one councillor’s alleged failure to declare a significant conflict of interest during a property development vote. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Wagga Wagga City Council has reported long-time councillor Rod Kendall to the Office of Local Government for his failure to declare a conflict of interest when voting on a development application at a February council meeting.

The development application was for a small building for the Plymouth Brethren Church community in Lake Albert. It is alleged Cr Kendall had a prior relationship with the applicant Carl Napier.

The councillor could be sanctioned or suspended if found guilty of deliberately withholding the significant conflict. The allegations come on the back of a long-standing conflict between Cr Kendall and the North Wagga Residents Association.

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Minister for Local Government Wendy Tuckerman said as a former councillor, she takes matters of misconduct very seriously.

“I, like all members of the community, expect the highest standards of conduct and behaviour from our councillors in return for the trust that is bestowed on them,” Ms Tuckerman said.

“Wagga Wagga City Council have made a submission to the Office of Local Government which is currently being assessed to determine whether an investigation in this case is warranted.

“The OLG (Office of Local Government) is responsible for misconduct investigations and it would be inappropriate for me to comment on individual matters that the OLG is reviewing.”

Cr Kendall, who has been a councillor since 2004, was investigated by the Office of Local Government for alleged misconduct in 2020 and was found to be innocent on all counts.

That investigation began when the North Wagga Residents’ Association paid private investigator Jonathon Creighton nearly $30,000 to investigate the councillors and their interests.

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Mr Creighton’s report, which investigated Cr Kendall’s role on the council dating back to 2009/10, alleged he had 17 counts of undeclared positions and interests, six counts of mischaracterising a company’s principal objects of corporation, seven counts of incorrectly describing his interests in a company and one count of incorrectly declaring that he was not a property developer or a close associate of a corporation that is a property developer.

It also accused him of failing to declare conflicts relating to council and regional planning panels on 13 occasions.

In a letter reviewing the report, the OLG went through all of Cr Kendall’s ‘undisclosed interests’ and explained why there was no requirement to disclose them. Regarding his own financial returns, the OLG said that Cr Kendall had been “comprehensive” in his disclosure and, in many cases, provided more information than what was required.

“Having considered all of the allegations contained in the Report, I am satisfied that no action is warranted by OLG,” the letter concluded.

Responding to the fresh claims, the Residents’ Association treasurer Fiona Ziff sent a letter to the OLG officially calling for a review of the historical claims in light of the new report.

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“In light of Councillor Kendall’s most recent failure to properly declare an interest, a matter which has now been referred to your organization by General Manager Peter Thompson…We are now seeking to have the decision reviewed by a different department,” the letter read.

“In the said Creighton Report it was proven that Councillor Kendall failed to declare to Council an interest his wife had in a block of Land in Boorooma, which was the subject of a development application in December 2009. Former General Manager Mr Eldridge was sacked in 2017 for failing to declare an interest his son had in a block of land in East Wagga which was the subject of a development application at the time.

Cr Kendall was approached for comment but did not reply.

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