Graham Meineke.
Graham Meineke. The Northern Star

Lismore councillor cops 3-month pay suspension

LISMORE City councillor Graham Meineke has had his councillor pay suspended for three months after failing to disclose a "significant" conflict of interest before a council vote.

But the three-term councillor has appealed the ruling by the Office of Local Government, saying he believes he did nothing wrong.

The alleged breach occurred during two council meetings in July and December 2013, when the council was voting on a resolution concerning a property on Rous Rd, Goonellabah.

The property was owned by a client of Cr Meineke's in his private capacity as a planning consultant, under his business GM Project Development.

Under clauses 4.2 and 4.12 of the council's code of conduct, Cr Meineke should have declared a non-pecuniary conflict of interest over the business relationship and left the chamber.

He did not.

Acting chief executive of the Office of Local Government, Tim Hurst, ordered Cr Meineke be suspended from receiving councillor pay for three months from June until the end of August this year.

Mr Hurst said he had "carefully considered" the departmental report into the conduct of Cr Meineke and was "satisfied" that a breach occurred.

"The non-pecuniary conflict of interests was 'significant'," wrote Mr Hurst, "as it was a current client relationship and ongoing business relationship likely to be perceived ... as an interest that could influence Councillor Meineke when carrying out his public duty."

He said Cr Meineke's conduct "evidences a reckless disregard" for his obligations as a councillor, highlighting Cr Meineke's apparent lack of interest in his councillor obligations.

"Even when warned about the risks of conflicts of interest, Cr Meineke did not take advice about governance matters, or seek advice to understand his obligations to manage conflicts of interest," Mr Hurst wrote.

The only mitigating factor in Cr Meineke's favour was that "no concealment or deceit" was present, which would have warranted an actual suspension from office.

However, he said despite Cr Meineke's 11 years in office he refused to take advice and "at no time accepted that his conduct has fallen short of that required by the code of conduct".

He said that the councillor's conduct was "lacking in contrition and insight".

Cr Meineke had previously said he might not re-contest the upcoming council election, declaring he was only a "maybe" for a fourth term in office.

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