FORMER South Gippsland Shire Councillor Andrew McEwen has been ordered to appear at a Contest Mention Hearing in Wonthaggi on Friday, September 20.
The direction was given by Magistrate Jacinta Studham after Mr McEwen appeared in the Korumburra Magistrates’ Court last Thursday, August 8 to answer a charge brought against him by the Local Government Inspectorate.
The Local Government Inspectorate charged Mr McEwen on May 28 this year, while still in office as a councillor, with one count of misuse of position.
The Inspectorate has alleged “that Mr McEwen provided a Tarwin Lower resident with information in January 2018. At the time, the resident was involved in a proceeding against South Gippsland Shire Council in the Supreme Court”.
The matter did not proceed at Korumburra last week after Mr McEwen’s barrister, Paul J Lawrie of Queen Street, Melbourne requested an adjournment to Wonthaggi next month.
Mr Lawrie, who is a specialist in commercial law and matters involving local and state authorities and regulators, told the court that there had been a “useful summary case conference” with the prosecutor representing the Inspectorate and that the matter was now ready to proceed to Contest Mention, where the matter could potentially be resolved.
Magistrate Studham asked if all material was available to allow the matters to proceed and Mr Lawrie said that they were and the prosecutor representing the Inspectorate agreed.
Magistrate Studham also urged Mr McEwen to stay in touch with his lawyer ahead of the matter potentially being resolved next month.
Asked by the Sentinel-Times afterwards whether he had anything to say, Mr McEwen said “no”.
His lawyer, Mr Lawrie, said there could be no comment at this stage while the matter was still proceeding.
It has been alleged that Mr McEwen, while still a councillor, provided a member of the community with confidential information directly relating to his Supreme Court action against the shire in relation to the level of nuisance noise coming Bald Hills Wind Farm at Tarwin Lower/Walkerville.
Under section 76D(1) of the Local Government Act 1989, it is an offence for a person holding the position of councillor to misuse their position by making improper use of information to gain or attempt to gain, directly or indirectly, an advantage for another person.
The penalty for the offence is 600 penalty units or imprisonment for five years or both.
As at the date of the offence, the value of a penalty unit was $158.57, making the maximum penalty available $95,142.
Anyone convicted of this offence is also disqualified from holding the office of councillor for eight years.