Complaints amount to a ‘witch-hunt,’ says Lake Macquarie councillor | poll

'NOT GOING TO QUIT': Lake Macquarie councillor John Gilbert has been subject to misconduct complaints, which he says amount to a 'witch-hunt'. Picture: Marina Neil

'NOT GOING TO QUIT': Lake Macquarie councillor John Gilbert has been subject to misconduct complaints, which he says amount to a 'witch-hunt'. Picture: Marina Neil

LAKE Macquarie councillor John Gilbert has lashed out over a “witch-hunt” he says is being fuelled by malicious complaints against him, and which has embroiled him in successive investigations.

Two people complained to the council about Cr Gilbert’s connection to a contentious proposed boarding house in Josephson Street, Swansea.

The code of conduct complaints related to Cr Gilbert’s relationship with the development, after his real estate business had sold the property, and the Department of Local Government decided to investigate.

On Thursday Cr Gilbert told the Newcastle Herald an investigator had informed him he was cleared.

But his relief was short-lived, as he learned he would also be investigated for  allegedly using the council logo on social media.

“It’s an absolute witch-hunt,” Cr Gilbert said.

“It’s obvious there are people with some kind of grudge. I think it’s got to do with the Swansea development, which I have nothing to do with, except that I sold it.”

Asked about the status of investigations, a spokeswoman said Lake Macquarie council “is awaiting a final report from the external reviewer”.

On November 28 last year, Lake Macquarie council heard a public access presentation by Rebecca Smith, an opponent of the Swansea boarding house.

Cr Gilbert declared a pecuniary interest – that he was the marketing agent for the site – and left the meeting.

But despite Cr Gilbert’s declaration, one of the complaints that led to him being investigated was that he had also “be [sic] assisting the developer with the development application” which, said the complainant, amounted to “a serious conflict of interest”.

Seemingly cleared over the boarding house matter only to be implicated in another investigation, Cr Gilbert said he didn’t know how he was alleged to have misappropriated the council logo.

“I went over all my Facebook stuff and I don’t know when I’ve even used [the council logo],” he said.

“But either way, I’m not going to quit, no way. I’ve wanted to do this for too long, and I’m enjoying doing it.”

Liberal councillor Jason Pauling said there was “a lot” he and Cr Gilbert disagreed on, but he thought Cr Gilbert “discharged his duty” by leaving the council chambers during discussion of the boarding house development.