FORMER Newcastle lord mayor Jeff McCloy has hit back at the ICAC’s Operation Spicer investigation, calling it a “star chamber” and a massive waste of time and money.
Restrictions placed on the ICAC after the Margaret Cunneen case restricted its ability to make findings of corruption but it did make “factual findings” to say Mr McCloy intended to evade electoral funding laws in the way he donated more than $60,000 to the campaigns of four Liberals – Craig Baumann, Tim Owen, Andrew Cornwell and Gary Edwards.
When the Newcastle Herald pointed out that things would have been much worse for him without the Cunneen case, he said: “Thank God for Margaret Cunneen.”
Mr McCloy said he gave the money because he wanted the Liberals to win in the Hunter.
He insisted, as he did at the time, that he had business interests in areas outside of property development and he did not believe he was donating as a developer.
Having fought the ICAC every step of the way through the courts, Mr McCloy said he thought the 172-page report was “pretty much as I expected it to be, at law”.
He described the factual findings against him as “a parking fine, a speeding fine” and said the recommended charges against Andrew Cornwell and his wife, Samantha Brookes, were “absolute bunkum”.
He said counsel assisting the ICAC, Geoffrey Watson, had run “a smear campaign” against him.
“He set this whole thing up as a shot at wealth, saying that I’ve done this from the Bentley with wads of cash a quarter of an inch thick, using language like that to give it a flavour of something sinister,” Mr McCloy said.
He said the Free Enterprise Foundation part of the ICAC report showed much larger amounts of money being donated by Sydney developers yet few people in that section were even named, let alone hounded out of office and publicly shamed for two years.
He said Spicer had been a $20-million waste of time and money. He said “Newcastle has suffered” from the political fallout from Operation Spicer, saying: “Look at your representatives now”.