Loophole allows councillor to vote on Byng Street hotel despite conflict of interest

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Orange City Councillor Russell Turner.COUNCILLOR Russell Turner says legal advice enabled him to vote on the Byng Street hotel proposal on Tuesday night, despite declaring an interest.
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Cr Turner, who is the chairman of the Orange Regional Conservatorium board, declared a non-pecuniary, non-significant interest at the April meeting due to the conservatorium being on adjoining land and left the chamber.

But on Tuesday night, he again declared the interest and remained.

According to the council’s code of conduct, a non-pecuniary conflict of interest is significant where a matter involves a particularly strong affiliation between the council official and an organisation, sporting body, club, corporation or association.

The code states a significant conflict of interest must be removed or the councillor must not vote on the issue.

Cr Turner, whose role with the conservatorium is unpaid, said his legal advice indicated his level of interest was non-significant and he could vote.

His vote in favour of the development was inconsequential, with a motion to refuse the development carried eight councillors to three.

“I hadn’t obtained the legal advice at that stage [in April],” he said.

“I wished to vote for the development all along – it’s a legal development, the zoning of the land was correct and providing we gave conditions, I believe it should have gone ahead.”

While the sale of the current conservatorium site will enable the organisation to establish purpose-built premises at the Civic Centre, Cr Turner said the conservatorium did not own the site and it would not handle the proceeds.

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