The mayor of a council in northeast Melbourne and a respected community elder will be questioned this week in public hearings by the Anti-Corruption Commission in a major corruption investigation into embezzlement and of public personnel.
Banyule mayor Rick Garotti – who resigned from the party earlier this year after being referred to the party’s internal disputes tribunal for alleged branch stacking activities – will be the fourth witness to appear before the Independent Commission of Anti-Corruption, which investigates abuse of taxpayer-funded staff and grants for the activities of Labor Party factions.
Cr Garotti was secretary of the ALP branch in Heidelberg, which was the focus of a 2018 ABC investigation which revealed allegations of branch stacking.
The ABC reported that Heidelberg was the largest branch of the Labor Party in Victoria, with a membership list that dropped from 13 to 325. It was also reported that at least 24 members did not live where the files were. so indicated, and 19 others were registered at an address linked to a respected leader of the Somali-Australian community, Dr Hussein Haraco.
Cr Garotti will testify Monday and Tuesday, while Dr Haraco, founder of the Somali Australia Council of Victoria, will testify Wednesday and Thursday. Public hearings begin at 10:30 a.m.
Cr Garotti and Dr Haraco both belong to Adem Somyurek’s moderate labor faction on which the IBAC investigation is focused.
The anti-corruption investigation simultaneously examines multicultural grants awarded to the Somali Australia Council of Victoria by then-minister Robin Scott, a Somyurek ally. In the secret recordings obtained by Age Last year Mr Somyurek claimed Dr Haraco was a central figure in his branch stacking operation.
Next to a Age and 60 minutes investigation which revealed the industrial-scale branch-stacking operation, the Labor Party suspended the voting rights of the Victorian branch of the PLA and appointed party alumni Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin as trustees of the left.