Liberal MP probed over possible ‘threat’
A Liberal MP will be questioned over whether he possibly threatened Sydney councillors to make them develop a part of Sydney where he and his family had properties, a corruption inquiry has heard.
The hearing heard that stood-aside NSW Sports Minister John Sidoti also allegedly failed to disclose his interests in the Five Dock neighbourhood in Sydney's inner west, which is part of his electorate of Drummoyne.
Mr Sidoti has denied any wrongdoing.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing, which began on Monday, will investigate whether councillors at the City of Canada Bay were threatened or influenced by Mr Sidoti into making decisions that would benefit him, his wife, his sister and his parents.
"This public inquiry will also explore whether Mr Sidoti used his position as a Liberal member of state parliament … in order to influence those councillors, whether by threats or otherwise, (to make decisions that) would favour or advance the private property interests of the Sidoti family," counsel assisting the commission Rob Ranken said.
Mr Ranken said Mr Sidoti and his family members had ownership of a number of properties in Five Dock, just outside an area that was being considered by the council for rezoning.
Although community submissions and independent planning experts had persuaded the council that it would be contrary to the public interest to allow development where the Sidoti family's properties were, the commission heard the MP tried repeatedly to convince councillors otherwise.
Mr Ranken said his investigation, which has been ongoing since 2019, has obtained "various emails and other correspondence" that show Mr Sidoti regularly raised the planning issue with a group of Liberal councillors.
The allegations concern a time period between 2011 and 2018, the first seven years of Mr Sidoti's time as an MP.
Mr Ranken also read a long list of financial interests that Mr Sidoti was obligated by law to disclose to the NSW Premier's office, and alleged that he failed to disclose at least some of them.
He said the ICAC had sent a compulsory notice to the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet to obtain the disclosures Mr Sidoti had made, and noted it was the Premier's responsibility to enforce the ministerial code of conduct under which they were made.
The inquiry will investigate whether Mr Sidoti breached the ministerial code by failing to make disclosures, something that could lead the ICAC commissioner Peter Hall to recommend that corruption charges be brought against Mr Sidoti.
The ICAC first confirmed in 2019 it would investigate Mr Sidoti, at which point he temporarily stepped aside from his ministerial portfolios of Sport, Multiculturalism, Seniors and Veterans.
Earlier this month, after the ICAC announced it would hold public hearings, Mr Sidoti resigned as minister and has said he will sit on the crossbench in the NSW parliament until the inquiry finishes.
Originally published as Liberal MP probed over possible 'threat'