An action was filed today in the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (N-CAT) against the results of the election for Penrith City’s East Ward last December.
Lili Orrock, Australia First’s lead candidate in that election, and Jim Saleam, president of the party, filed the action. It states that two current councillors, Tricia Hitchen and Marlene Shipley, should be dismissed from the civic office based on disqualification. A third person, Faye Aboghazaleh, who was a candidate on the Shipley ticket, was also said to have been disqualified as a candidate.
The New South Wales Local Government Act (1993) Sect 275 (2) states: “A person is disqualified from holding civic office on a council if he or she is an employee of the council or holds any office or place of profit under the council.”
The application gives as its grounds: “As directors of the St. Marys Town Centre Limited, an entity of the Penrith City Council, the three candidates were reasonably employees of the Council in a structure which was, and is, one which operates as an office of profit and a place of profit under the council.”
At the time of the election, Tricia Hitchen (Liberal), Marlene Shipley (independent), and Faye Aboghazaleh (independent) served as directors of St. Marys Town Centre Ltd. They still sit on its board as directors. Council documents show that this company was a body incorporated by the Council itself, referred to as an “entity of the council” and funded by a special-rates levy on property in the St. Marys Town Centre. It is described in official documents as a “service provider” and is responsible for the funding and administration of projects, duly reporting back to the Council.
This corporation is almost unique among the 170 odd New South Wales local government areas. Just one more corporation serving projects in the Penrith CBD. One current councillor serves as a director of that structure. No action has so far been taken on the legality of that councillor’s position.
Last December, Tricia Hitchen led the Liberal Party ticket and Marlene Shipley on one of the “independent” tickets. Jim Saleam said of this mess: “The election was bogus.” If the present action is successful, a new election should be called for the East Ward of Penrith City Council.