Secret report kept under wraps four months after council investigation

CLEAR AS MUD: Four months after a costly investigation wrapped up, ratepayers still haven't been told why they had to cover legal fees and 20 weeks of forced leave on full pay for former planning director Andrew Crakanthorp.

CLEAR AS MUD: Four months after a costly investigation wrapped up, ratepayers still haven't been told why they had to cover legal fees and 20 weeks of forced leave on full pay for former planning director Andrew Crakanthorp.

A costly report explaining why council’s former planning director left Wagga under a corruption cloud has been suppressed for four months.

Wagga’s new mayor Greg Conkey has conceded the city’s residents have been “let down” by secrecy shrouding former high-ranking council official Andrew Crakanthorp’s controversial departure.

The former top bureaucrat spent 20 weeks between January and June on forced leave with full pay while undisclosed allegations levelled against him were investigated by an outsourced lawyer.

Mr Crakathorp stunningly accepted the deputy general manager role at Murrumbidgee Council after the 20-week investigation played out, just days after Wagga council officially asked him to justify his ongoing employment. 

Hot on the heels of his surprise career move, Wagga council revealed they had referred Mr Crakanthorp to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), but did not say why.

That drew the ire of NSW education minister and Murray MP Adrian Piccoli, who accused Wagga council of treating Mr Crakanthorp “appallingly”.

“People use ICAC very carelessly and once your name is associated with it there’s a degree of reputational damage and that’s what Wagga council has done,” Mr Piccoli said in June. 

Mayor Conkey said elected councillors were given a threadbare account of allegations and findings back in June, but are still waiting on the final report like everyone else.

“It’s distressing not knowing the full picture and I can understand the angst in the community,” Cr Conkey said.

“Councillors have been banging our heads against a brick wall asking for the final report, but I have not been given a due date.

“As soon as the final report is received it will be made public, because the public deserves to know.”

Transparency was a key plank of last month’s council election.

When asked whether voters could rely on Labor councillor Vanessa Keenan to unearth the buried report, she agreed “the community needs to know what happened”.

“Transparency increases accountability and strengthens decision-making,” Ms Keenan said last month.

Councillor Kerry Pascoe worried making what little information he had public would expose council to “astronomical” legal damages.

Likewise, retired councillor Julian McLaren feared “letters from lawyers” if he commented.

Council this month did away with the planning director position as part of a staff restructure, the details of which are largely still secret.

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