The Australian Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) has raided the council offices run by former Rodney District Council chief executive Rodger Kerr-Newell.
Mr Kerr-Newell moved to Halls Creek Shire, a remote region in northern Western Australia, after being on secondment to the Auckland Transition Authority, the forerunner of the amalgamated Auckland Council, in 2010.
Former Rodney director and planning development manager Lloyd Barton joined him on the Halls Creek council shortly afterwards, serving as Mr Kerr-Newell’s corporate services director.
The CCC is conducting a serious misconduct investigation, involving several local councils, and will only say at this stage that it has executed search warrants to secure evidence that will contribute to its investigation.
Shortly after the raid at the end of last month, The Halls Creek Herald newspaper reported that it had been threatened with legal action by a legal firm working for the council.
During his last 12 months with Rodney, Mr Kerr-Newell received in excess of $700,000 as chief executive. He was in the job for only two-and-a-half years and his termination package of $349,000 was the highest of any of the outgoing Council chief executives.
At its dissolution, Rodney was one of the most indebted councils in the Auckland region.
Auckland Councillor John Watson, who served on Rodney District Council, says it will be very interesting to see what emerges from the commission investigation in Australia.
In 2010, Cr Watson tried to get Auckland Council to recover $42,000 paid to Mr Kerr-Newell by the former Rodney District Council during the last days of the council – $35,000 in lieu of ‘untaken professional development’ and $7000 for ‘not having an opportunity to receive career transition advice’.
While Council admitted that Rodney was, “... not contractually obliged” to pay Mr Kerr-Newell the payments and agreed with the Auditor-General that these payments “…breached the Transitional Provisions Act”, it said they had no power to require repayment.
Two former Rodney council transport managers were found guilty of bribery and corruption in the High Court. Murray Noone is serving a five-year prison sentence after being found guilty of receiving $1.1 million in bribes and Barry George was given 10 months home detention on similar charges. A number of other Auckland Transport staff who had worked for Rodney were dismissed from their jobs.
Cr Watson says that there will be many people throughout Rodney who will be following these latest developments in Australia with much interest.
Media release from Halls Creek Shire Council, issued on October 3:
The Shire of Halls Creek has always and remains an entirely transparent publicly regulated organisation, committed to providing its residents with quality services and facilities.
Given the CCC role within the Public Sector is aimed at maintaining the Western
Australian community confidence that public officers act with integrity and in the public interest, the Shire of Halls Creek welcomes and intends to cooperate fully with any investigation.
Once it is legally appropriate to do so, the Shire of Halls Creek will inform the community as to the outcome of any investigation.