Are our councillors under investigation over suspicion of breaching confidentiality
Today I was contacted by a Sydney based private investigation company, acting on behalf of their client, seeking information around an email that I sent to all of the Councillors on August 12th, 2020:
The email of August 12th, 2020 said
Terrific news about ADCO being awarded the tender
Good to hear that ADCO have been advised by Council they have been awarded the contract for the Mackay Park Project.
It will no doubt be of benefit to have both the architect and construction company awarded the Hills Wave Centre project undertaking the Mackay Park project as both facilities have much in common.
Councillors, for your information, in case the GM hasn't told you yet FDC were advised they were not the successful tenderer while Richard Crookes haven’t been notified either way. Zauner also haven’t been notified either way as yet. So I won't be publishing this until I see the grand announcement By the way it has been more than two weeks. The community might like to be informed.
Lei Now, some four weeks later, I have an investigator asking where I got the information from as he was investigating a breach of confidentiality. You can imagine, as a registered media company and as a journalist who respects confidentiality of sources, I was within my rights to simply say "Nup, not telling". But instead I looked at the bigger picture and this is what I considered before continuing with the phone call: -A Private Investigator has a copy of my email to Councillors - obviously provided to him by his client. - That email was ONLY sent to councilors with a copy to Council records. - At that point even Blind Freddy would determine that the client could only be Council and not any of the tenderers. Note I did not ask the investigator who his client was knowing he would not be at liberty to advise. So here we have, contracted and paid for by Council, an investigator investigating who? It could only be staff or councillors. Who was it that advised the Beagle of the name of the winning tenderer on August 12th, more than two weeks after the Councillors had endorsed the winning tenderer but decided to not name for reasons of Commercial in Confidence so that they might pursue further negotiations? Is the client a Director suspecting staff of the breach? Maybe it is the General Manager suspecting her staff or Directors of contacting the Beagle and breaching confidentiality? Maybe the Councillors themselves were being investigated for breaching confidentiality? For a consulting private investigator to be employed and given a copy of my email that was sent to Councillors indicates that the order of the investigation could only have been endorsed via the General Manager. As you can imagine the conducting of an investigation into councillors is a very serious matter indeed. And if it wasn't the General Manager then who was it? Just who is the client? To have so little faith in our councillors, and to possibly distrust them to the extent that a somebody in Council would initiate a private investigation is indeed worrying. I am more than aware that a breach of such confidentiality, disclosing who the winning tenderer might be, could result in codes of conduct and possible criminal actions. But to what extent would the investigation go? Councillors ipads and phones are Council property. Councillors emails are stored on Council's servers. If the investigation is as serious as it seems would this see Councillors having to hand over their phones and laptops for forensic scrutiny? If this is the case then what else might be found? A private correspondence between a ratepayer and their councillor voicing concerns of unfair treatment by Council staff, possible evidence of breaches of the Privacy Act by Council staff? Maybe even emails from councilors to ratepayers offering up dissenting views on issues that have been adopted in Council. The phones would reveal the names, dates and times of phone calls as well. So will these devices be scrutinised? In talking with the investigator I was aware that my answers to his questions would be formally reported as part of his investigation. But why on earth would the Council employee go to the effort of contracting a Sydney based private investigation company to discover the source of my advice on the winning tenderer when all he/she needed to do was ring me and ask. Exactly how much will the ratepayers be paying for this? Today I wrote to the Councillors and said "Councillors, you will be pleased to know that none of you, nor any Council staff, breached any confidentiality and that I advised the investigator of how the information came to be discovered." "I must say how disappointed I am though. I have never seen this Council at such a low level. It is permeated by a nasty toxicity, veiled in such secrecy and appears more often to be controlled via latent threats to both staff and councillors." "There is no denying that this investigation is aimed solely at councillors as staff appear to be above reproach (or have been already grilled)." "To my mind this can only be seen as an investigative action conducted by COUNCIL, via the General Manager (or her staff) against YOU, the Councillors. Hopefully you have been advised that such an investigation has been initiated against your good selves. "It will now be the final report of a private investigator, back to their client, that either exonerates you or sees you face further actions. "No doubt none of you will be advised of the outcome of this confidential report, for the eyes of the client only, unless further action is required. "And alas none of you will be privvy, with the exception of the client, to know who my source was, as this information was conveyed in confidentiality. "What a shameful point this is in the history of this once reputable council." I concluded.