Councillor Les Larke from the Bass Coast Shire Council
26 September 2020.
Councillor (Cr) Les Larke, a Bass Coast Shire councillor is under investigations for offering $5 million of his private wealth on communities across South Gippsland if five councillors nominated him as mayor. He is a multimillionaire and was formerly a general manager at State Trustees. He is accused of making the offer during a meeting in Wonthaggi in 2018, which ended abruptly when several councillors walked out.
Within minutes of leaving the meeting on October 31, 2018, then mayor Pamela Rothfield sent a formal complaint to Paul Buckley, who was the council’s chief executive at the time. The chief executive promptly reported the matter to Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) as required by the law. IBAC referred the matter to the Victorian Local Government Inspectorate for investigations. But, the inspectorate only launched an investigation in the past few months. The Age reported that an investigator from the inspectorate has interviewed at least four councillors and Mr. Buckley over the past six weeks. No findings have been made yet.
The Council received an anonymous complaint from the public and again referred the complaint to the IBAC and the Local Government Inspectorate in 2019.
Cr Les Larke confirmed that he was under investigations by the Local Government Inspectorate. He criticised the timing of the release of information two days after election nominations closed for the November election. He said that this would affect his chances of defending his Binturong seat.
It has been alleged that the information came from another councillor, in breach of confidentiality provisions, in an effort to hinder Cr Larke’s election campaign at a crucial time designed to inflict the most damage when he has to defend his seat as a councillor.