The Raj Mahal site.
The Raj Mahal site.

Raj Mahal a battleground

BUSINESS powerbrokers in Woolgoolga have taken their protest against a proposed development all the way to a formal code of conduct complaint against two Coffs Harbour City councillors.

The complaint by the local Chamber of Commerce involves voting on local rezoning issues.

On May 31, the chamber complained about Coffs Harbour mayor Cr Keith Rhoades and Cr John Arkan in relation to their votes on May 13 on the council’s Employment Lands Strategy as it relates to Woolgoolga.

The chamber secretary, Zachary Hawke, said the chamber believed Cr Rhoades should not have voted on the issue because in the past he had received political campaign donations from entities associated with Buildev, a development company which hopes to build a supermarket on the site of the present Raj Mahal.

He said they believed Cr Arkan should not have voted on the issue because he lived and owned land in one of the areas to be rezoned and his former brother-in-law is the owner of the Raj Mahal site, also to be rezoned under the ELS.

While no public comment has been made by the Councillors, it’s believed they are very confident the complaint will not stick and that professional lobbying is behind the bold move.

Coffs Harbour City Council general manager Stephen Sawtell confirmed that he had received a formal complaint against Cr Rhoades and Cr Arkan.

He said he had informed the councillors and the complainant and had already passed the matter on to the Department of Local Government.

He said there were two options for investigating code of conduct complaints; they could be passed on to the department or considered by council’s own code of conduct committee.

Mr Sawtell said the makeup of council’s code of conduct committee was confidential but involved members who were ‘outside of council and generally people of a legal background’.

Mr Sawtell said in this case he had taken legal advice on the matter and also held discussions with the department.

A departmental investigation could hang over the heads of the councillors for some time before it is resolved.

“It could be months – it depends on the workload and the nature of the complaint,” Mr Sawtell said.

Cr Rhoades said yesterday he would wait to comment until the matter was investigated.

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