City News

Macdonald, Obeid fallout hits Town Hall

Former MP Ian Macdonald / Photo: Cameron Richardson

The City of Sydney Council has been urged to stop using a professional services company that cleared a suspicious mining deal involving former NSW Mining Minister Ian Macdonald and one-time Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid.

Councillor Angela Vithoulkas has written to the City’s CEO Monica Barone, requesting that the City no longer use O’Connor Marsden & Associates to perform reviews of staff conduct, after the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) found Mr Macdonald and Mr Obeid guilty of corruption.

On July 31, the ICAC determined that Mr Macdonald accepted the services of a prostitute in return for arranging meetings between businessman/accused murderer Ron Medich and NSW energy executives, and recommended Mssrs Macdonald and Obeid be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions over rigged coal-mining leases.

While there is no suggestion O’Connor Marsden engaged in corrupt activity, a 2010 review by the organisation cleared Mr Macdonald of corruption in granting one of the controversial mining licenses.

A subsequent probity report by commercial law firm Clayton Utz found O’Connor Marsden failed to carry out “a robust investigation”.

Ms Vithoulkas said it raised enough red flags for the City of Sydney to stop using the company’s services.

“Will you please confirm that Council will not appoint O’Connor Marsden as a conduct reviewer in light of the information that is now available?” Ms Vithoulkas wrote in her letter to Ms Barone.

“Given the published findings on the inadequacy of the O’Connor Marsden report and their association with such a matter, I believe it is inappropriate for Council to associate itself with that company as a panel reviewer.”

O’Connor Marsden is listed on the Panel of Conduct Reviewers adopted by Council last month.

“I am not suggesting that O’Connor Marsden was corrupt, however their report was found to be inadequate,” Ms Vithoulkas wrote.

But a City of Sydney spokesperson downplayed Ms Vithoulkas’ concerns and said there were no issues with O’Connor Marsden’s performance.

“The City of Sydney has numerous panels of legal providers to perform a range of services, including internal audits, probity advice, probity auditor services, conduct reviews and investigations,” said the spokesperson.

“The City has engaged O’Connor Marsden to undertake internal audits, investigations and process reviews.

“The City is satisfied with the quality of the work undertaken by O’Connor Marsden.”

O’Connor Marsden did not respond to requests for comment.

Ms Vithoulkas maintained that O’Connor Marsden’s work for the City of Sydney must be questioned.

“Given the serious nature of matters that require investigation by the City’s Conduct Review Panel, it is vital that the City’s processes are accountable and transparent,” she told City News.

“Who reviews the reviewer?”