The Local Government Inspectorate prosecuted 3 Wyndham City Council election candidates at Werribee Magistrates Court today (20 March 2018), as part of legal action against candidates in the 2016 Victorian council elections for allegedly failing to submit a campaign donation return.
Helen Fanakopoulou (also known as Eleni Fanakopoulou and Helen Simeonidis) did not appear in court and Magistrate Jennifer Grubissa agreed to hear the case summary ex parte.
After hearing the dates and details of emails, phone calls and registered letters sent to the accused, Ms Grubissa was critical of Mrs Fanakopoulou’s ignorance of the matters and stated that “compliance (with legal requirements) should be given paramount importance."
Ms Grubissa said there had been “more than ample opportunities for the accused to comply with the requirements” and found the charge proven, ordering Mrs Fanakopoulou to pay a $1500 fine and $1000 in court costs and receive a conviction.
Two further candidates, Wanli Jiang and Sahra Ashkir, had their matters adjourned to 17 April 2018.
Candidates are required to submit campaign donation returns when they receive any gifts or donations over $500, regardless of whether or not they are elected. Transparency of campaign funding or support is an essential element of the democratic process and failing to do so can carry heavy court-imposed fines (60 penalty units or $9327.60 as at 1 July 2016).
After a comprehensive information and guidance program for candidates following the 2016 council elections, 15 candidates who failed to lodge a return are facing prosecution in the Magistrates Court.
Chief Municipal Inspector David Wolf said: “A key factor in the integrity of local government is ensuring transparency on who has financially supported candidates and councillors. While we don’t take prosecution action lightly, it is important that we pursue these matters and allow the courts to determine the seriousness of the offence.”
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Reviewed 17 February 2020