AFTER three years, a 52-page Corruption and Crime Commission report, 45 alleged breaches and an 18-month tussle with the State Administrative Tribunal, how did lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi end up with a punishment a colleague describes as a “joke”?
Ms Scaffidi said she’s very pleased the SAT “rejected the state’s case that I should be disqualified from holding office.”
The SAT reduced her penalty from an 18-month disqualification to a seven-month suspension, which means she won’t be out of a job, as the entire council is suspended during a state government inquiry into the city. Previous inquiries at other councils have taken up to 18 months.
Ms Scaffidi’s arch rival on council, Reece Harley, posted on Facebook that the suspension was “a joke”.
“For 19 serious breaches of the local government act the lord mayor has won herself an extended seven month holiday with pay. Sweet deal. ‘Justice’ apparently.”
The essentially meaningless punishment was explained by SAT deputy president Tim Sharp in his written finding.
The punishment was always likely to be lower. The SAT initially found Ms Scaffidi had breached the local government act 45 times by not properly disclosing gifts or travel.
She appealed that, and the supreme court knocked out 26 of those breaches.
With 19 left, Judge Sharp wrote that “none of the 19 serious breaches is in the upper range of seriousness. Each of them is low to mid-range”.
He wrote that they weren’t as bad as failing to put in an annual return entirely, and it was not as though the lord mayor got any “financial benefit as a consequence of her failing to disclose the relevant ‘gifts’ and ‘contributions to travel’ in her annual returns”.
He wrote that “similarly, it is not alleged that the city or anyone else suffered any financial detriment as a result of these failures.
“Importantly, the applicant does not contend that the respondent’s failings were anything other than carelessness”.
“The finding reads “the tribunal is satisfied that the respondent has shown insight into and remorse for her conduct.
“Further, the tribunal is not persuaded that the respondent is at risk of committing further serious breaches of the disclosure requirements of the LG Act”.
The SAT’s revised Scaffidi ruling:
• One month’s suspension for putting in her annual return late;
• Three months for each of the five failures to disclose gifts, served concurrently;
• Three months for the 13 failures to disclose travel, served concurrently.
The final score for her penalty: seven months’ suspension, starting July 27.
by David Bell