12 September 2023

'I did it. I wear it': Wagga city councillor cops a one-month suspension for code of conduct breach

| Chris Roe
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Wagga Wagga City Councillor Rod Kendall

Cr Rod Kendall has been suspended from Wagga City Council for one month. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Wagga city councillor Rod Kendall said he accepted the findings of the Office of Local Government (OLG) that he had failed to declare a conflict of interest before casting the deciding vote on a development application in February last year.

Cr Kendall will be suspended from his role on Wagga Wagga City Council for one month, beginning this weekend.

“From Monday I will be citizen Rod Kendall, not Cr Rod Kendall, until the 16th of next month,” he said.

“I did it. I wear it, and it’s not a badge of honour. It’s actually the exact opposite.

“I would prefer not to have transgressed and I will try my hardest not to do it again, but the message is that the code of conduct does have teeth and needs to be adhered to, and I support that.”

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The sanction dates back to a council meeting on 14 February last year when a development application for a Plymouth Brethren Church meeting room on Gregadoo Road was narrowly approved by five votes to four.

Some local residents had objected to the development that they described as “a church dressed up as a house” and Cr Kendall’s prior business relationship with the applicant, Carl Napier, was flagged.

Prime News spoke with Mr Napier on 7 March, 2022, in the wake of the vote and he confirmed that Cr Kendall had been aware of his involvement and the two of them had discussed the development.

Cr Kendall maintains that his failure to declare an interest was an honest mistake, but he is supportive of the OLG’s decision and the sanction.

“I was guilty of not declaring a significant non-pecuniary interest, but on realising that, I self-reported the matter and I’ve never shied away from it,” he said.

“As a matter of fact, I supported a rescission motion so the matter could be considered again without me.”

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The explanation for the OLG’s disciplinary action came from Local Government Deputy Secretary Brett Whitworth, who said that he was “satisfied that Clr Rodney Kendall of Wagga Wagga City Council (Council) has engaged in misconduct.”

The finding noted that, “Clr Kendall participated in the process and made admissions on the issue of breach in interview,” but that “disciplinary action is necessary to provide both a specific deterrence to Clr Kendall in the future, and also as a general deterrence to others”.

Mr Whitworth concluded, “I have determined that Clr Kendall should be counselled and suspended from civic office for a period of 1 (one) month.”

Wagga’s current councillors L to R: Tim Koschel, Michael Henderson, Amelia Parkins (Deputy Mayor), Jenny McKinnon, Richard Foley, Rod Kendall, Georgie Davies, Dallas Tout (Mayor) and Dan Hayes. Photo: WWCC.

Cr Kendall has been a councillor since 2004 and served as mayor between 2012 and 2015.

He was the subject of a previous OLG investigation in 2020 following complaints from the North Wagga Residents’ Association and allegations of undisclosed interests.

He was found to be innocent on all counts and the OLG found that Cr Kendall had not only been “comprehensive” in his disclosure but, in many cases, had provided more information than was required.

Cr Kendall said it was important for local government to maintain transparency and accountability and for sanctions to be enforced.

“I believe the code of conduct which is adopted by council should have teeth and it needs to be respected and needs to be adhered to,” he said, explaining that he would return all council property when the suspension came into effect this weekend.

“We’ve had instances where code of conduct issues were just not resolved and while I’m disappointed with the outcome, it’s an outcome that I accept.”

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