BARBS CUT DEEP
By TOBY WALKER
FORMER Grafton City deputy mayor Peter McKenna has beaten an allegation that he breached a pecuniary interest provision of the Local Government Act in a 2003 Shoppingworld carpark vote.
Mr McKenna has spent the last month defending himself against claims he seconded and voted on a motion to sell the Duke Street carpark to Shoppingworld developers McConaghy Group, knowing his business might benefit from the deal.
The former councillor owns a hair salon that backs on to land on the corner of Pound and Prince streets designated for new carparking in the Shoppingworld development application.
A complaint alleging Mr McKenna's complicity in the deal was sent to council's former general manager Ken Boyle in March this year, sparking an internal investigation by council.
The complaint alleged Mr McKenna had acted improperly when he backed the carpark sale in August 2003 and then declared a pecuniary interest in the Shoppingworld deal at a subsequent council meeting in November 2003.
Mr Boyle passed the complaint to the Department of Local Government (DLG), but ignored staff advice suggesting the matter also be referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Mr McKenna first became aware of the matter on July 5 this year when he received a letter from Mr Boyle advising him the DLG had decided against proceeding with a formal investigation based on the claims lodged in the complaint.
Using the Freedom of Information Act, Mr McKenna obtained copies of the original complaint and letters sent between council and the DLG.
ALTHOUGH the indentity of the complainant was kept from him, Mr McKenna believed it came from a city centre trader unhappy about the $50million Shoppingworld expansion and its potential to take trade away from Prince Street.
He said he first considered the conflict of interest soon after voting to sell the carpark and then distanced himself from the development after consulting with former Grafton City Council general manager Ray Smith.
He hit out at what he described as a 'vexatious' attempt to sully his character and delay the Shoppingworld development.
"It just seemed like it was another attempt to stop the development or, by making it public, insinuate that maybe I did have a conflict of interest," he said.