Kim Chance

Kim Chance

Minister for Agriculture and Food; Forestry; the Mid West and Wheatbelt; Great Southern

    Inquiry clears Dr Walter Cox of misconduct allegations

    15/02/2008 4:30 PM

    An inquiry has found no evidence that the actions of the former chairman of the Environmental Protection Authority, Dr Walter Cox, constituted misconduct under the Corruption and Crime Commission Act.

    Dr Cox was named when the CCC released its report in October last year into alleged Public Sector Misconduct linked to the Smiths Beach Development at Yallingup.

    The report stated that Dr Cox attended a private lunch with Brian Burke and Julian Grill in May 2006, when he knew the agenda for discussion and knew, or should have known, that the Canal Rocks Strategic Environmental Assessment was before him and his agency.

    The CCC found the conduct could constitute a serious breach of the Public Sector Code of Ethics in that there was a failure to act with integrity in the performance of official duties; and that this constituted misconduct under the CCC Act.

    Dr Cox was chairman of the EPA between March 2003 and May 2007, but is no longer a public sector employee.

    However, he is the independent chairman of the Natural Resource Management Council, therefore Agriculture and Food Minister Kim Chance requested the Director General of his department, Ian Longson, to investigate the opinions expressed by the CCC.

    The investigation into Dr Cox’s conduct followed the procedures and principles of the Public Sector Management Act 1994.

    Mr Longson’s report states that the evidence indicates that the draft Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for the Smiths Beach development proposal was not before Dr Cox or the EPA Board at the time of the invitation for the lunch or when the lunch was held.

    The report states that the SEA was with the EPA Service Unit, whose officers were working with the proponent’s consultants to finalise them, and that the chairman and the board had no involvement at that stage.

    During the CCC hearings, both Dr Cox and Mr Grill said that Smiths Beach was not discussed during the lunch, Mr Burke could not recall it being discussed and the CCC report stated that it did not have any direct information that it was discussed.

    Mr Longson found there was no evidence that Dr Cox attempted to interfere with the SEA process and there was no evidence that Dr Cox was influenced in his role as chairman of the EPA by Mr Grill or Mr Burke.

    The Director General was satisfied that:
    • Mr Cox did not act in a manner that was not honest or impartial; and
    • Dr Cox’s conduct did not constitute a breach of the Western Australian Public Sector Code of Ethics.
    On this basis, Mr Longson formed the view that Dr Cox’s actions did not constitute misconduct under the Corruption and Crime Commission Act.

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