ORANGE will begin the new year with another council election unless councillor Kevin Duffy chooses to appeal the Administrative Decisions Tribunal (ADT) decision to dismiss him from office.
But to retain his place on the council, Cr Duffy has 28 days to prove to the Supreme Court the tribunal’s judgment, revealed on Monday, was unlawful.
The tribunal found Cr Duffy was ineligible for a seat on Orange City Council as he did not live in the Orange area when the electoral roll closed on July 30, 2012.
During the year-long court proceedings, Cr Duffy maintained he had moved from the Borenore property he owns with wife Sandra to his son Robert’s Orange home in April last year, prior to the September council election.
But in his judgment, the tribunal’s president Judge Kevin O’Connor said the answer was “clear-cut” and Cr Duffy had made “no more than a strategic decision” when he took up a bed at his son’s home.
Judge O’Connor said the few personal items Cr Duffy took with him were “little more than what a business person would take on a business trip involving a few days”.
He also pointed out Cr Duffy had referred to his Borenore property as “home” in written evidence to the tribunal.
“Had the respondent [Cr Duffy] failed to win a seat [on the council]. it would have been uncomplicated for him to move back to the Borenore property,” Judge O’Connor said.
“His inactivity in relation to changing address [to his son’s Orange home] tends to support the view that he still regarded the Borenore property as his residence.”
The tribunal gave little weight to Cr Duffy’s claims he was living at his son’s home rent-free in exchange for horse agistment on the Borenore property, and rejected claims he had moved to Orange to make it more convenient for his job at Orange Buslines.
Judge O’Connor did accept that Cr Duffy mostly slept at his son’s home, prior to the election, but said Cr Duffy had admitted to staying overnight at Borenore for “five or so” nights and visiting the property 30 times.
He described Cr Duffy’s testimony as “vague” regarding his involvement in domestic activities at his son’s house and his contribution to utility expenses and food purchases while he was still taking responsibility for bills and maintenance at the Borenore property.
The decision upholds the complaint made by John Da Rin, on behalf of the Orange Ratepayers Association and comes almost exactly 12 months since the group first launched the legal challenge against Cr Duffy’s position on the council.
Cr Duffy could not be reached for comment.