Lobbyist councillor votes on client item

FREMANTLE city councillor Dave Coggin has voted on items involving clients of his lobbying firm without declaring an interest.

Cr Coggin is one of two directors of Connect Government Relations, a registered lobbyist owned by the Hodgson Coggin Family Trust and Clarity Communications.

The public sector commission’s register was last updated December 1, 2015 and lists construction giant Mirvac Group and the WA Football Commission as Connect clients.

On November 18, Fremantle council’s strategic and general services committee considered an application from Mirvac to license a section of the Leighton Beach reserve. The company wanted to erect a site office there for two years for its latest multi-million dollar apartment development.

Cr Coggin participated in the discussion and voted on mayor Brad Pettitt’s motion to defer the item, without mentioning his firm’s connection to the company.

He was the only councillor to vote against the deferral but had argued for the proposal to be rejected outright.

He’d argued strongly against deferral, saying the public shouldn’t lose amenity or beach access because developers want sales offices with nice views.

The mayor and other councillors instead chose to defer the item to see if there were more “appropriate” locations.

Cr Coggin didn’t return the Herald’s call, instead emailing responses to questions that we  had sent to council CEO Graeme Mackenzie.

“In relation to the Mirvac lease request that came to SGS last month, I did not declare a conflict because my last commercial business with Mirvac ceased in July 2015,” he told the Herald.

“Nevertheless, I’ve asked the CEO to investigate the matter and take whatever action he thinks is necessary.”

Cr Coggin told the Herald he’d received advice he didn’t have to declare a proximity interest in May when voting on a development application for a hotel adjacent to two Mirvac apartment projects at Leighton Beach.

He says he also didn’t have to declare a conflict of interest last September when voting to approve the preparation of a business plan for the co-location of East and South Fremantle football clubs at Fremantle Oval.

The minutes note the item sought, “support for the City, in conjunction with … WA Football Commission … to undertake the business case at a value of up to $75,000”.

The Herald asked Mr Mackenzie whether Cr Coggin had participated in any stakeholder meetings leading up to the vote, or if he had alerted participants about his lobbyist connections to the WAPC, but our questions elicited a single line: “As CEO I am investigating these allegations and will take appropriate action if there is found to be a breach of the Rules of Conduct.”

Cr Coggin was principal policy adviser to former WA premier Alan Carpenter in 2007/08 and acting deputy director-general at the department of state development from October 2008 to January 2010.


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