ICAC finds corrupt conduct against former MP and staff

Tuesday 13 July 2010

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has found that the former State Member of Parliament for Penrith, Karyn Paluzzano, and her former electorate staff Timothy Horan, Jennifer Launt and Kerrie Donlan engaged in corrupt conduct in connection with the submission of false claims for sitting day relief payments.

In its report on the Investigation into the submission of false claims of Sitting Day Relief payments by a NSW MP and members of her electorate staff, released today, the Commission recommends that consideration be given to obtaining the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with respect to the prosecution of Mrs Paluzzano for various criminal offences including misconduct in public office, obtaining a valuable thing for herself, obtaining money for Ms Launt, and offences of giving false or misleading evidence to the ICAC.

The Commission acknowledges the assistance provided by Mr Horan in bringing this matter to its attention and during the investigation. In recognition of Mr Horan's assistance, it is not of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the DPP with respect to prosecuting him for any specified criminal offence. However, the Commission is of the opinion that consideration should be given to taking action against Mr Horan, Ms Launt and Ms Donlan as public officials with a view to dismissing, dispensing with, or otherwise terminating their services on the grounds that they engaged in misconduct.

The sitting day relief entitlement was introduced by Parliament in July 2006 to finance the employment by Members of the Legislative Assembly of additional temporary officers for their electorate offices when electorate staff were at Parliament House for sitting days.

The Commission found that in 2006, Mrs Paluzzano and Mr Horan agreed to represent falsely on the sitting day relief claim forms that certain conditions for payment of the entitlement to Ms Launt had been met. Ms Donlan assisted with the implementation of the arrangement by filling out the forms with false details. This resulted in Ms Launt receiving payments of around $4,200 that she was not entitled to, in return for which she made herself available to work for Mrs Paluzzano at the Penrith electorate office and sometimes accompanied Mrs Paluzzano during "door knocking" visits to constituents during this time.

Ms Launt later admitted that she did not work at the electorate office on most of the days claimed on the forms. Mrs Paluzzano admitted that she knew the forms were false and misleading when she signed them. The Commission found that she had falsely declared on various forms, unbeknown to Mr Horan, that he worked at Parliament House on sitting days in late 2006 as due to Ms Launt's status at the time as a casual relief employee, the claims would have been rejected. In 2007, Mrs Paluzzano engaged three additional staff members and continued to falsely represent that the conditions for sitting day relief payment had been met in order to claim around $3,400.

The ICAC has made corruption prevention recommendations to the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, including that consideration be given as to whether Parliament's audit program of Members' entitlements has the capacity to detect corrupt conduct and, if not, to develop, implement and regularly evaluate a corruption prevention strategy that addresses these issues. The Commission held a public inquiry as part of this investigation over four days in May 2010, at which Commissioner the Hon David Ipp AO QC presided and eight witnesses gave evidence.

Fact sheet 

Investigation report