The letter conveying Local Government Inspectorate findings to Les Larke – see below for full text
The Local Government Inspectorate advises that there is no case to answer following allegations of misconduct made recently and reported extensively in the media**.
Les Larke, candidate for Bunurong Ward, was the subject of these investigations, and has issued the following statement
I have consistently maintained my innocence of any allegation of wrongdoing while suffering from a serious injustice through the anonymous leak of confidential information and an associated smear campaign in the print and social media.
Fortunately, this has been remedied with the Victorian Local Government Inspectorate’s decision dated 9 October 2020 (received 5pm 13 October 2020) to set aside any allegation.
I hold no ill will toward my fellow councillors or council officers, and whilst, in my opinion, they seriously misjudged the situation, there is certainly hurt and bitterness enough. The point was whether I had committed any wrongdoing, and I did not.
A special thanks for all the messages and telephone calls of support. I also want to thank in particular my family for their love and care, notwithstanding the immense anguish they had to go through; those who spoke up for me and suffered as a result; and all my friends, acquaintances and business colleagues who helped me throughout this ordeal.
Also my deepest thanks and gratitude to all of my supporters and their unwavering resolve to see justice prevail, and to throw light on a manufactured allegation to reveal the truth.
Finally, and more importantly, I am aware of the current health crisis and its toll on individuals, families and businesses, and I wish everyone a successful recovery, good health and wellbeing in 2020/2021 and beyond.
The Local Government Inspectorate released its findings in a letter which states:
Bass Coast Shire – Investigation Outcome.
I am writing to inform you of the outcome of a complaint made to the Local Government Inspectorate (‘LGI’).
1. Cr Les Larke (‘the Accused’) attempted to bribe fellow councillors in order to secure nomination as Mayor for Bass Coast Shire Council in breach of section 76D of the Local Government Act 1989 (Act).
2. This occurred at the councillor only meeting held on 31 October 2018 (‘the Meeting’).
3. The complaint alleges that the Accused offered each ward $5million dollars in exchange for the vote as Mayor.
“From the evidence provided, it is considered that the Inspectorate would be unable to prove to the standard of the Civil or Criminal Court that the Accused misused his position by gaining or attempting to gain, directly or indirectly, an advantage for themselves or for any other person.
“The Accused has not misused his position in accordance with any other provision in s 76D(2), and, accordingly, the elements of s 76D are not made out.
“The Inspectorate will take no further action in this matter.”
Signed Ross Millard, Investigations Manager.
– o O o –
The release of the investigation outcome provides clarity for voters but the timing of this release (after the mail out of ballots but prior to the close-off date for polling) must still leave questions about the validity of the election in Bunurong Ward.
** Chronology of events
- The allegations were made public by The Age on September 25th https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/councillor-accused-of-offering-5-million-to-be-made-mayor-20200924-p55ysg.html
- BCRRA wrote to the Victorian Attorney General and the Local Government Minister on October 2nd pointing out that the leaks compromised the integrity of the election. We called for the investigation findings to be released before ballots are mailed out, or for the election to be postponed. (Read a copy of our letter here)
- The Age reported the VLGI decision on October 14th https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/bass-coast-councillor-cleared-of-alleged-15-million-bribe-20201014-p564xq.html
- The Victorian Attorney General replied to BCRRA’s letter on October 15th. (Read a copy of their letter here)