Questions remain how stand over man Younan passed himself off as ICAC officer
Topic: nsw govt
Picture: Where ever you look there are developers including "Stockland" outside the ICAC hearing room as a gaggle of media monitor figures exiting today.
The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is the kind of place where they give the media an emergency exit plan like on a Qantas flight. Everything should be fine but they are defying 'gravity' only in this case the ruthless game of money politics in NSW.
It's easy to fall into a frivolous attitude with the cartoon like characters straight out of the Sopranos lined up at this hearing. Really they do look so. Big fairly harmless guys like Cr Frank Gigliotti in the witness box today in the Gong-gate, upset over his wife's breast cancer who just wanted the sinister stand over man Younan to leave him alone.
The Commission played footage of a case of Chivas Regal from Gigliotti going into Younan's car boot ostensibly to keep the ICAC itself quiet, that he was impersonating: Here it is already on News Ltd websites:
THIS is the moment a councillor caught up in the ICAC sex-for-development case gave a case of whiskey to conmen posing as corruption investigators. Video of the handover was released today as Morris Iemma told a female MP caught up in the scandal to stand down and Wollongong council's future is on the rocks. More
At this point the hearing room door opened as someone entered and guffaws of laughter could be heard from the Media Room as the flaks watched the same footage across the foyer.
Maybe it was Friday cabin fever for these folks - serious reporters like Deborah Cornwall (7.30), Wendy Frew (SMH), John Lyons (The Australian) and the bloke from the ABC tv who usually does the whimsy (maybe his exec producer also has a sense of humour). And others I don't recognise.
But a flippant reaction to proceedings would be wrong. Certainly the beak Judge Jerrold Cripps was techy with miserable Gigliotti, who was doing no giggling and didn't enjoy his gig today. We made a drawing of him with his ample girth resting on the desk surface in front, balancing on the chair edge, as if to concede it was always going to be inadequate:
One of the meeja agreed it was a case of racketeer "wolves amongst sheep" with Gig arguably being the latter.
In fact we found the hearing room a little intimidating amongst the ethnic folk even with our own 1/8 Italian heritage - what were these guys really capable of? We started to see the sense in sitting at the back where one is less noticeable amongst the serious players, or camp in the media room itself.
Frank Vellar who for want of a better metaphor was an older version of the Matt Damon character in The Departed deep in the mire, reverting to Italian for emphasis, bedding the talent Beth Morgan. She was sitting (significantly?) next to John Lyons (The Australian) most of the morning suggestive of some kind of media deal. She will surely run the naivety defence with tender age, those looks, and benign sexism, it just might work. On the other hand Vella is quoted today referring to his male developer and councillor peers as "smarter than a fox" and "they will eat you" to one Cr Zanotto.
We went to the ICAC pursuing a theory, that like Matt Damon in the movie they had or have a rat deep in their midst. We suspect so from the Debra Jopson story front page Sydney Morning Herald 21/2/08 namely:
Maybe this Melinda McCabe formerly Manager of Investigations at ICAC who turns up working with disgraced Joe Scimone at the Maritime Authority is the real Matt Damon in this story? We pressed Nicole Thomas, media officer for ICAC on this point and she called back quick smart but only to say ominously "no comment".
Certainly Judge Cripps wanted to know why the hell Gigliotti was so convinced a hefty grub like Younan could possibly be an ICAC officer. It was indeed incredulous, and to hear the detail was to feel the chill clammy embrace of Big Younan and even sympathise with his victims. 'How stupid' we are supposed to think unless .....there is or was a rat deep down in the ICAC burrow. In that case it could ring true to hapless Gigliotti, who otherwise didn't seem that stupid, well and truly hooked by Younan, who did in fact trade on the allegation ICAC was dirty. It's a scenario likely to greatly unsettled the beak too.
We all have to hope it was a mere ruse.
Then there is the quandary of Ms Morgan, senior planner. One journo said she's irrelevant now, and a retired senior planner of 35 years experience in the public gallery told this writer she was "naive". The Daily Telegraph runs a story today pretty much to the effect she has already been punished by humiliation as a pawn, if not porn, or hooker for gaming developers:
is the title on the web, but actually the headline in print is
This woman deserves our support
with a big neutral image clutching legal folders. How's that for friendly spin?
On the other hand we recall a Peter Corris crime thriller where the willing participant in a Bonny & Clyde sex and robbery adventure is later absolved for being young, female, and emotional. Certainly Morgan, possibly with her mother sitting next to her, is such in the back of the court - mortified, quietly distraught even as Vellar gave his evidence this morning at one point looking up, and who knows maybe even to the back of the court but probably to his lawyer.
We admit to a cynical streak still - something doesn't quite gel with us in all her genuine anxiety - reportage of writing the ethics policy then breaking it; leadership training programme in Bondi Junction, fooling around with a married developer, her own divorce, joining in the table of knowledge tactics meetings; failing to officially report Joe Scimone's harrassment while knowing his political connections; Noreen Hay MP elected in 2003 and a certain age and ripe for a challenge like Jodi McKay got that seat of Bryce Gaudry up in Newcastle. Or maybe just her tone of voice in the tapes played today at the hearing. Just how ambitious and calculating was Ms Morgan? Was her goal a political career in the end, short circuiting the money men drip feed to the other councillors, for her own political aspirations? Was she ever a member of the local ALP herself? Did she fancy herself after the Greens stole Cunningham federally in 2001?
Did she look at Nicole Cornes in South Australia and think I can do that, all I need is financial backing?
Noreen Hay has just been ditched too, as we read this arvo on the Sydney Morning Herald 3.32 pm today
ALEXANDRA SMITH 3:32pm | Premier orders Wollongong MP to step down as secretary for health.
Our theory re Morgan stalking Noreen Hay MP is probably all fanciful and unworthy and certainly lacks any factual basis, all circumstantial surmise. Possibly says more about this writer's obsession with real politik. But then we just wonder, was there two Beth Morgan's? The besotted naive mid level planner, or the bored ambitious calculating amoral political animal who knew the power geography too well and the role of money in that paradigm, whose general manager was literally in it up to his neck as well, but not her immediate superviser Director of Planning? Ms Morgan had ability and opportunity, maybe motive, and we wonder.
Was she in fact too good a student of reality in that frog pond and taking a career path? Anxiety more about the existence of the ICAC itself putting a spoke in the whole sorry affair including her escalator upward?
There were some choice comments in the hearing about the "fuckwit deputy" and "mini me" etc present councillors. Truth to tell Beth Morgan couldn't have been worse.
Judge Cripps gave natural justice notification to all the lawyers as the day's hearing drew to a close that under S. 74C of the ICAC Act:
they would need to address this potential recommendation to govt for dismissal of the Gong council.
We already know from his press conference a week ago Premier Iemma is keen to sack the council too.
State Govt will be keen to quarrantine Wollongong Local Govt at every turn, including ditch Noreen Hay MP, a loyal servant of the regional ALP but not nearly as good looking as Ms Beth Morgan.
The ICAC broke up early - 1.30 pm today - probably so the Big Meeja could work up the audio and visual material provided on disk for the weekend splash. Nicole Thomas as media officer like a heavily armed navy frigate, if not battleship, was keeping jealous watch again over the media fleet. Earlier she dispensed AV disks, and now ever more transcripts as we left in search of honest sunlight.
We used the exit plan.
Posted by editor
at 3:49 PM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 1 March 2008 10:22 AM EADT