The $5.5 million contract to redevelop the gun club at the centre of NSW corruption investigations was awarded to Wagga Wagga’s former long-time mayor – and current council member – who the NSW Department of Local Government once recommended be stripped of key powers over highly damning misconduct findings.
Current City of Wagga Wagga councillor Kerry Pascoe is the owner and managing director of Pascoe Constructions, the company contracted to develop the 1000-person gun club convention centre at the heart of the scandal that felled NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian earlier this month..
Alongside his property development businesses, Pascoe has been a Wagga Wagga councillor for 17 years, since 2004, including eight years as Wagga Wagga mayor, starting in 2005.
The Klaxon has obtained gun club documents which shine considerable new light on the scandal.
“The building which is now at a very advanced stage was contracted to well-known Wagga Wagga builder, Kerry Pascoe,” says an ACTA document from around 2017.
“Kerry still represents the people of Wagga Wagga as City Councillor”.
“Kerry still represents the people of Wagga Wagga as City Councillor” — ACTA
ACTA’s then President Robert Nugent (left) and Kerry Pascoe, Wagga Wagga councillor and the owner of Pascoe Constructions. Pictured showing the drawings for the $5.5m gun club redevelopment. Source: Supplied
The document also reveals that ACTA had repeatedly applied for funding as far back as 2010, before actions taken “through local member Daryl Maguire” led to the August 2017 funding approval.
“The Australian Clay Target Association applied for funding for a new clubhouse on numerous occasions: 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016,” an ACTA document states.
The explosive revelations come as the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) today begins its public hearings into the scandal, which has thrown Australia’s largest state into political turmoil.
They also bring further into question those who have been using the Berejiklian investigations to vocally advocate against the introduction of a strong federal anti-corruption body, such as the Federal Government and some sections of the commercial media.
ICAC is investigating Berejiklian and Maguire over $5.5m the NSW Government granted to the Australian Clay Target Association (ACTA) to undertake the development.
The funding was granted in August 2017, which was while Berejiklian was in a secret romantic relationship with Maguire, who was then the long-time state MP for Wagga Wagga.
Last year it emerged the pair had been in a secret relationship from at least 2015 to August 2020.
Maguire was forced to resign from parliament in 2018 after an earlier ICAC investigation found he had secretly sought payments from a major Chinese property developer.
He had also been engaged in illegal “cash for visa” schemes involving Chinese entities.
Berejiklian, who voluntarily resigned both as NSW Premier and from parliament entirely after ICAC on October 1 announced she was under investigation, has previously denied any wrongdoing.
Maguire and Berejiklian before Maguire was forced to resign from NSW Parliament in disgrace in 2018. Source: Supplied
Pascoe was Wagga Wagga mayor from 2005-10 and again in 2010-11, and has remained a member of council since.
Remarkably, the NSW Government has been closely involved with Pascoe in the past.
In 2006, while Pascoe was Wagga Wagga mayor, the NSW Department of Local Government launched a year-long misconduct investigation into the council following serious concerns of improper activities spanning several years.
“The Minister for Local Government and the department have received a number of complaints about the performance of Wagga Wagga City Council over a period of time,” the NSW Department of Local Government said at the time.
“This resulted in departmental officers visiting council in 2003 and again in 2005.”
In May 2007 the NSW Department of Local Government tabled in parliament the “Report on the Section 430 Investigation into Wagga Wagga City Council”, an extremely damning, 164-page document.
The NSW Government report into Wagga Wagga council.
The relationship between Pascoe and council’s then general manager was “ineffective and bordering on dysfunctional” and it had “prevented the provision of an efficient, effective and appropriate standard of governance”.
“We find that the Mayor is unable to adequately undertake his role and has not carried out his responsibilities as required by the delegations given to him by council,” the Department of Local Government investigation report states.
“We find the Mayor…appears to struggle to understand and perform his role to the appropriate standard.
“Despite concerns expressed about the weaknesses of the Mayor’s performance in his role, councillors continue to re-elect him to the detriment of good governance,” the report says.
Pascoe was to have powers stripped from him, including his ability to solely set the terms and conditions of the general manager, which were to instead be handled by councillors as a whole.
“Through the Mayor’s mishandling of the management of the General Manager’s contract, council has been placed in a position where it is in breach of contract,” the report says.
“The Mayor is unable to adequately undertake his role and has not carried out his responsibilities as required” — NSW Dept of Local Government
ACTA document showing approval processes and Pascoe’s involvement. Source: Supplied
When approached last week for comment, Wagga Wagga City Council directed The Klaxon to Pascoe.
Pascoe did not respond to written questions.
In NSW property developers are not legally able to make donations to local councillors.
Yet as revealed in the scandal that engulfed Sydney’s then Auburn City Council in 2015 and 2016 – that saw the spectacular downfall of its flamboyant former deputy mayor, property developer Salim Mehajer – there is nothing stopping developers from becoming councillors themselves.
Despite that loophole being repeatedly raised in the media at the time, including by this journalist, the NSW government has failed to introduce any laws to ban the practice.
The ACTA document from around 2017 details some of Pascoe’s property dealings.
It notes Pascoe had “been in the building trade for 50 years” and had “built 2 motels in Wagga Wagga, one of which he still owns”.
“In early 2000 he developed an interest in commercial work and took on several projects in the $3.5 to $10 million bracket including a medical centre, bowling alley and the Toyota dealership,” the document states.
“Kerry has always realised a great future for Wagga Wagga and in 2004 he became a City Councillor.
“In the same year he was made mayor of Wagga Wagga, a position he held for 8 years. Kerry still represents the people of Wagga Wagga as City Councillor”.
The Klaxon last week revealed the gun club had been applying – but been repeatedly rejected for – the funding since at least 2012.
Now it has emerged ACTA had been applying for the grant since 2010.
The ACTA document describes the processes involved in the gun club obtaining the $5.5m grant.
“The Australian Clay Target Association applied for funding for a new clubhouse on numerous occasions: 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016,” it states.
“On each occasion we were met with a sympathetic response however, we did not fit the funding criteria.”
Documents released earlier this year, first reported by ABC’s 7.30, revealed Maguire had written to Berejiklian, then Treasurer, in January 2016, seeking the funding on ACTA’s behalf.
Of the funding process, the ACTA document states:
“The latest rejection was in May 2016. Following this reply, through the local member Daryl Maguire, the Executive Officer was given a half hour meeting with the Minister, Mr Stuart Ayres on the National Ground (ACTA’s Wagga Wagga premises).”
“Assurances were provided to the Minister that we would build a ‘multi-functional’ facility with specific requirements in terms of the number of patrons the building could accommodate.
“In August a grant was provided to the ACTA for a Business Case Study to show the economic benefits of the building to the community.
“Following a lengthy investigation and report, it was announced on the 2nd of January 2017 by member for Wagga Wagga Daryl Maguire, that the NSW State Coalition Government would provide 5.5 million dollars toward the project on condition the venue would cater for up to 650 patrons for dinner and up to 1000 for a conference”.
Why Maguire publicly announced the grant in January 2017 – when the funding wasn’t approved until August 2017 – is expected to be a focus of ICAC’s public examinations.
He has been called to give evidence before ICAC this week, in hearings the watchdog has said are expected to run for 10 days.
ABC’s 7.30 has previously revealed that the grant was initially knocked-back within the NSW Government in 2017, but was later approved after an interjection by Berejiklian, who was then NSW Premier.
In late 2016, when Berejiklian was NSW Treasurer, the $5.5m for the grant for the gun club was set aside by a committee that is usually chaired by the NSW Treasurer.
Berejiklian has failed to provide on-the-record responses when asked whether she chaired the late 2016 meeting where the decision had been made to set aside the money.
She has also failed to elaborate on documents which emerged earlier this year showing that in 2017, as Premier, she had intervened in the gun club grant process.
More to come…
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