Council may be a costly experience for Duffy as appeal date approaches

SEEKING COUNSEL: Councillor Duffy may have to pay costs in the court battle over his eligibility for council.

SEEKING COUNSEL: Councillor Duffy may have to pay costs in the court battle over his eligibility for council.

ORANGE councillor Kevin Duffy could have to pay more than $66,000 in costs following a court case ordering his dismissal.

In late 2012, Orange Ratepayers Association member John Da Rin challenged Cr Duffy’s right to be a councillor in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, alleging the councillor did not live in Orange.

In December, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal found Cr Duffy was not a resident at the time of his nomination, meaning he wrongly stood for election and was irregularly elected.

While Cr Duffy will appeal the result in July, acting judge Kevin O’Connor, senior member Peter Molony and general member Jane Schwager awarded costs incurred after March 12, 2013 in favour of Mr Da Rin.

Mr Da Rin applied for $66,550 in costs, including $38,000 in agents’ fees and $27,917 in solicitor and barrister fees, however the final amount will have to be negotiated between the two parties.

Cr Duffy requested no order be made for costs, or if costs were ordered that he be awarded costs up to the second day of hearings because the applicant had “conducted his case in a time-consuming and unnecessarily litigious manner”, causing “numerous delays, multiple mentions and multiple relistings”.

In its judgment, the panel said each party usually bore their own costs in tribunal cases, however applications for dismissal from civic office related to the integrity of the election process.

The panel viewed the process as fundamental to democratic government.

“It is in the public interest that applicants not be deterred from bringing good cases by the fear of the legal costs that will be involved,” the judgment said.

Cr Duffy said he was still seeking legal advice on the decision, while Mr Da Rin declined to comment because the appeal was yet to come before the court. 

danielle.cetinski@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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