Our journalism usually sits behind a paywall, but we believe this is the time to make more of our content freely available to as many readers as possible. For more free coverage, sign up to COVID-19 Watch.
ICAC Chief Commissioner Peter Hall
ICAC Chief Commissioner Peter Hall. (Image: AAP/Joel Carrett)

In December 2014, the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) received an anonymous complaint that Gary Goodman, the CFO of what was then the Botany Bay council, had misused up to $1 million of council funds. The allegations included that he had misused $50,000 worth of the council’s Cabcharge cards, misused council fuel cards and had three to four council vehicles for his personal use.

That turned out to be the tip of the iceberg. Anyone following the string of revelations regarding cash donations to NSW Labor would be aware of the incredible information ICAC is capable of extracting, and the extraordinary powers they have. The following is an account of what the commission found out about Gary Goodman and Botany Bay Council, and how.

Surveillance and phone tapping

In February 2015, the commission commenced a preliminary investigation, which corroborated some of the allegations made by the anonymous complainant.

Goodman had become the CFO at Botany Bay in 1994 and, in the years that followed, became the centre of a little solar system of corruption. The commission placed him and others under surveillance. ICAC obtained a warrant under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, and Goodman’s phone was tapped. On September 22, 2015, a call was intercepted from a man named Keith Mark:

GOODMAN: Um I need you to find a landscaping company for me.

MARK: A landscaping company?

GOODMAN: Yeah don’t worry about it. Just do what I’m saying. I need you to get an email address … Um, bank accounts don’t matter, that’s fine. Um, hang on let me start this again. The brain’s not working. OK genuine email address, genuine … It has to be genuine. Name don’t matter, make it up. ABN don’t matter, make it up.

MARK: Yeah. Oh so it needs an ABN.

GOODMAN: Yep. Just make one up.

Mark and Goodman were long-time friends. Around 1997, Mark started creating fake invoices for fake businesses. ICAC recorded several phone calls between Goodman and various contractors, and a pattern emerged: Goodman would have contractors falsely invoice the council for work that no one performed. If they refused, he would threaten to terminate all their jobs with the council. If they had second thoughts, he’d threaten to take them down with him.

Documents

During the same incriminating call with Mark, Goodman warned that the council’s deputy general manager Lorraine Cullinane had found suspicious invoices and had confronted him and the former general manager, Peter Fitzgerald:

Know what the bitch did? She got every invoice we ever paid you and went through every one. She had everything Keith … it was disastrous. She dragged me into Peter, called us both fucking crooks.

Cullinane became the council’s general deputy manager in 1997, about a year after she and Goodman had started a relationship (it would last until 2002). In 1997 she started receiving up to $45,000 extra every year that she was not entitled to, a payment organised by Goodman. She told the inquiry she had believed it “was a legitimate payment to be made”.

ICAC issued over 200 notices for documents under sections 21 and 22 of the ICAC Act. The council records tendered showed payments made to Cullinane between 2003 and 2014 totalling $652,785.54. Goodman had a series of relationships with fellow council officers — apart from Cullinane, there was Marny Baccam and Suman Mishra. ICAC heard that, among other things, Goodman had given Mishra a Mercedes, paid her mortgage and $200 a week in “pocket money”. All would be found to have acted corruptly.

Financial records also obtained by the commission under the ICAC Act also showed that over 11 months across 2014-15, one contractor submitted invoices totalling $1.85 million to the council for work that was never done. Around $1 million was then transferred back to Goodman.

Compulsory examinations

During the course of the investigation, the commission interviewed a number of council employees and council contractors. The commission can compel witnesses to answer questions at compulsory examinations (private hearings that the public are not notified of). In this case, it held 32.

Public inquiry

Gary Goodman walked into ICAC on the ninth day of the inquiry. He was on crutches, having had surgery to remove a gangrenous toe. As the September 22 phone call was played back, he held his head in his hands. ICAC can compel people to attend and answer questions at public inquiries — and because it is inquisitorial, not adversarial, it doesn’t exercise a judicial function and hence doesn’t apply criminal justice rules like presumption of innocence or the right to silence.

Botany’s barrister Arthur Moses, SC put it to Goodman that he was a liar, a thief and a fraudster. Goodman agreed that he was.

“You were never going to stop, were you? You were addicted to this,” said Moses.

“Yes,” Goodman replied.

Twenty-nine people were compelled to give evidence before the inquiry.

The aftermath

ICAC eventually found that Goodman, between 1997 and 2015, was responsible for approving over $5 million worth of fraudulent invoices. He spent more than $600,000 on the council’s corporate credit cards. He even found time to take a $2000 bribe. Apart from Goodman, ICAC found 11 people had acted corruptly and recommended the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) charge 10 of them. The DPP has yet to announce whether they will proceed.

In November 2017, Goodman, who had long been ill, died. He was facing up to 17 years in prison. Bayside Council (which Botany Bay became when it merged with Rockdale during the proceedings) is suing his estate for the misappropriated funds.

Peter Fray

This crisis will cut hard and deep but one day it will be over.

What will be left? What do you want to be left?

I know what I want to see: I want to see a thriving, independent and robust Australian-owned news media. I want to see governments, authorities and those with power held to account. I want to see the media held to account too.

Demand for what we do is running high. Thank you. You can help us even more by encouraging others to subscribe — or by subscribing yourself if you haven’t already done so.

If you like what we do, please subscribe.

Peter Fray
Editor-In-Chief of Crikey

Support us today