The investigation into a leak of confidential information from inside Bega Valley Shire Council may have fallen at the first hurdle after the main witness did not consent to the interview being recorded by council's private investigator.
The investigation was instigated by council's general manager Leanne Barnes after regular speaker at council meetings, David Jesson, spoke about the costs of two code of conduct investigations to ratepayers as approaching $30,000.
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He was later asked by the mayor Kristy McBain from where he had received his information. He said it was not from council staff and added that it had been from several sources.
On May 16 Mr Jesson was contacted by a private investigator who said he wanted to speak with him about the leak of confidential information from council.
A letter from the investigator, of which the News Weekly has a copy, said they had been appointed at the request of Ms Barnes.
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In the letter to Mr Jesson, private investigator Brian Davis said he had been appointed "to conduct a governance related review into possible breaches of confidentiality".
The matters related not only to the question of cost of the code of conduct investigation but also to the proposed sale of the Hotel Australasia which has been widely quoted as being sold for as little as $150,000. Council originally paid about $550,000 for the hotel in 2015.
The investigator also wanted to talk about comments in the community that "the place was leaking like a sieve". Mr Jesson has acknowledged using the phrase to council's general manager.
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In his letter to Mr Jesson Mr Davis outlined the matters of interest.
"Information relating to two Code of Conduct matters (one including the costs of same) prior to the matters being finalised and when all material was Councillor information only.
"Commentary in the community and on Facebook relating to the Council's confidential negotiations for the sale of the Australasia.
"Comments made that 'Council is leaking like a sieve'."
Mr Jesson said the private investigator wanted him to go to Bega and also wanted to record the interview, neither of which were acceptable to him.
Mr Jesson countered by inviting the investigator to his home and told him that he would not consent to the interview being recorded.
It was agreed that they would meet at the Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre on Thursday, June 13.
However Mr Jesson also wanted journalist Denise Dion to attend at the same time.
The private investigator has since told Mr Jesson that the interview would not go ahead.
This leaves council's investigation somewhat in limbo given that Mr Jesson has not revealed who had passed the information to him.
He maintains that he had always sought to raise the matter within the context of cost to the ratepayer.
He said that $30,000 for two code of conduct matters which went nowhere other than to be noted, was a very large sum of ratepayer money which could have been better used.
Mr Jesson said he is not aware of the matters that were were being investigated under the code of conduct review, which was carried out by an independent reviewer.
The News Weekly also has no details of the confidential matters investigated other than there are two code of conduct matters in which three councillors are believed to be involved.
Council's general manager Leanne Barnes was asked about the future of the investigation but said she would not make any comments.