A 289 PAGE report estimated to have cost Singleton Council around $80,000 has recommended councillors Alison Howlett and Paul Nichols apologise to a developer.
Councillors were expected to debate the report at last night’s council meeting.
Mr John Cole of HWL Ebsworth was appointed sole reviewer of seven code of conduct complaints against Cr Alison Howlett and a further five complaints against Cr Paul Nichols.
Tara Hungerford, a director of TMH Property Group made the complaints in relation to a development application to build residential flats in Cranston Avenue in January 2011.
Cr Howlett was found to be in breach of one of the seven claims which was described as a relatively low level of seriousness which could be remedied by way of apology.
Mr Cole determined Cr Howlett had not treated the Hungerfords with respect when she made a comment relating to developers being ‘out to make a quick buck’.
Cr Howlett said the comments were related to developers in general but Mr Cole determined that it would be reasonable for the Hungerfords to believe the comments were directed at them personally.
Six remaining complaints by the Hungerfords, of which no breach was found, alleged Cr Howlett had not dealt with the applicant fairly and that she had shown preferential treatment to the objectors; had not made her assessment of the development application on merit, and had insighted contempt and harassment from objectors.
Cr Nichols was also found not to treat the Hungerfords with respect in relation to a comment he made during the meeting: “I am disgusted to sit here and listen to what has been said at the lectern. Our boundaries are Singleton, we need to support everyone. Have a look at it. The Hungerfords will be here and gone in the next 18 months and the rest will be left to the community. They have treated the community with contempt.”
Mr Cole characterised the statement as being capable of being interpreted as being in the nature of a personal attack by Cr Nichols.
The report recommended he also apologise to the Hungerfords.
The remaining five complaints that were not upheld were in relation to an allegation that Cr Nichols had harassed and discriminated against Cr Ruth Rogers, that he had said he was disgusted with the Hungerfords, had not dealt with the development application fairly or on merit and had made snide remarks.
A final decision on Mr Cole’s ruling of the two breaches was still in the hands of councillors at press time last night.