Frank’s men to vote on proposal

Andrew Mathieson
Councillors who accepted campaign donations from Geelong Football Club president Frank Costa have vowed to vote on his controversial proposal for a homemaker centre.
Tom O’Connor and Peter McMullin said they would have their say at council on whether the project should go ahead.
An inquiry tabled in parliament last year found Crs O’Connor and McMullin, as well as David Saunderson and Lou Brazier, had used money from the businessmen for their council election campaigns. Cr McMullin later paid back his share.
The inquiry led to Cr Saunderson facing court next week on a charge of failing to declare a donation of more than $500.
Mr Costa is chairman of a company proposing to build the Hometown centre on industrial land at North Geelong.
An independent panel has recommended that council reject the proposal.
Cr O’Connor said the only influences on his vote would be the social, environmental and economic benefits of the Hometown project.
He believed that the cash-for-councillors scandal had been “put to bed, gone and finished”.
“I’ll vote the way I want to vote and nobody is going to influence me,” he said.
Cr McMullin said he was waiting for a recommendation from the City’s planning department before deciding how he would vote.
“I don’t know what proposal is coming forward yet,” he said.
“That will be a decision I will make only at that time.”
Crs Saunderson and Brazier did not return the Independent’s calls for comment about whether they would vote on the Hometown proposal.
A spokesman for Planning Minister Justin Madden said he was unlikely to intervene despite the inquiry findings and allegations of conflict of interest at council.
“He certainly has the power to call things in that are of state significance,” the spokesperson said.
“But usually he would only do it if someone asked him.”
The spokesman said Mr Madden was happy to let the process “play itself out at council level”.
Council planning portfolio-holder Cr Rod Macdonald said the independent panel’s report should be “merely used as a guideline” for the council vote.
“I was disappointed in many aspects of the report,” he said.
“I didn’t think it gave credence to City Hall’s planning policy and there were some very sweeping statements made.
“I was disappointed in the context the report was put.”