Release of donations inquiry on Tate near

The NSW Government is preparing to hand down the findings of a two-year-old code of conduct investigation into Newcastle lord mayor John Tate.

The Newcastle Herald can reveal that the Division of Local Government approved an investigation into allegations against Cr Tate on March 23 last year, just three days before the state election.

With less than three months until the council poll, it is understood the findings will soon be made public.

The complaints, first lodged by Cr Mike King and community activist Tony Brown more than two years ago, allege Cr Tate did not properly manage and declare conflicts of interest during three separate council debates.

The conflicts relate to donations of between $790 and $15,600 made by developers to Cr Tate's 2007 campaign for the state election.

A statement from the division confirmed the investigation would assess "whether Cr Tate's conduct amounted to misbehaviour" under the Local Government Act.

"After having conducted an assessment of the information available, [division chief executive Ross Woodward], on 23 March 2011, authorised an investigation and the preparation of a departmental report in relation to a complaint against Cr Tate," the statement said.

The division would not comment on why the complaints had taken more than two years to investigate or when the report would be tabled, "other than to say that it will be done as soon as practicable, having regard to the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness".

People connected to the specific allegations spoke to the Herald this week and confirmed they had been contacted by the division and asked for consent to be named in the report.

Cr Tate said yesterday he did not want to comment on the matter.

He has not yet announced whether he will seek a fourth term in office, but his election chances would be hampered by any adverse finding.

Cr Tate has been censured by colleagues twice during this term, both in relation to similar matters, and councillors could vote to suspend the lord mayor for up to six months if he is found to have again breached the code of conduct.

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