THE investigation of a shire councillor over alleged conflict of interest remains unresolved.
Cr Graham Pittock appeared in Dromana Magistrates’ Court last Thursday to answer two charges brought by the Local Government Inspectorate that he had breached the Local Government Act.
The inspectorate is the local council watchdog.
It is alleged Cr Pittock had a conflict of interest when he voted on the multi-million dollar Southern Peninsula Aquatic Centre (SPA), proposed to be built on the Rosebud foreshore.
The charges allege the Seawinds Ward councillor voted at council meetings on 12 March last year and 12 June, a two-part meeting that was completed on 18 June.
The case was adjourned and is unlikely to return to court for at least two months.
The case hinges on an anonymous complaint from within the shire council about Cr Pittock voting on SPA.
It has been alleged Cr Pittock had a conflict of interest as he owns a gymnasium in Dromana and SPA will include a gym.
A larger gymnasium was added to the SPA complex last June when councillors voted to expand the aquatic centre from 4800 to 6800 square metres.
The Pittock probe was reported by The News on 20 September (“Pool ‘conflict’ inquiry”).
A council insider said the complaint against Cr Pittock was revenge for the SPA public meeting he and Cr Tim Rodgers organised in May 2012 at Rosebud Memorial Hall. It was also designed to force Cr Pittock to abstain from voting on future SPA matters.
The council had earlier refused to conduct a SPA “roadshow” to explain the project to residents and ratepayers.
More than 250 people packed memorial hall on Friday 4 May with pro-foreshore pool residents waving placards and jeering anti-foreshore speakers, many of whom said they wanted a pool but not on the shire’s preferred location.
It was the first public meeting about SPA since the shire was given permission in early 2012 by state environment minister Ryan Smith to build on the foreshore.
The aquatic centre has been a controversial issue within the council with councillors locked 6-5 in favour of the foreshore site.
Multiple meetings have seen various aspects of SPA pushed through with a one-vote majority.
Cr Pittock would not answer questions from The News about the conflict of interest allegations and the court case but said he had consistently voted to stop the pool going on the foreshore as he believed there were better sites.
Investigations into alleged conflict of interest of councillors are known to take up to a year.
Cr Pittock opened his Tonic squash and gym in Collins St, Dromana, in early 2012. It has eight courts, gym equipment and a cafe.
Cr Pittock operated squash courts and a gym in Dromana 1980-85, but closed it when the popularity of squash declined. Planning of Tonic started several years ago. Oddly, the anonymous complaint did not include allegation of conflict over Cr Pittock’s cafe. SPA also will have a cafe.
There are about 20 gyms and fitness centres between Dromana and Rye in the SPA “catchment” area.
A spokesperson for the inspectorate said public comments were not made about ongoing investigations.
– The Local Government Inspectorate received no funding in the May state budget with it being reported that several current and future courts cases regarding breaches of the Local Government Act could be in jeopardy.
A Napthine government spokesman reportedly said it would ‘’soon make further announcements regarding the future of local government compliance and inspectorate functions, as part of the broader integrity framework’’.