A city councillor gave false information about a liquor licence applicant, but her sanction of a fine and a warning has been shelved for now.

Cape Town - A city councillor is in hot water after she gave false information about a liquor licence applicant, but her sanction of a R20000 fine and a written warning has been shelved for now due to a document correction.
The charge against Milnerton councillor Joy McCarthy was that she had deliberately or negligently provided false information to subcouncil 3 last year with regard to the identity of an individual involved with a liquor licence application. Acting on the information supplied by McCarthy, the subcouncil took a decision not to support the liquor licence application.

Council Speaker Dirk Smit received a complaint that McCarthy had allegedly contravened the code of conduct for councillors.

A report that was recommended to be approved by the council states that a disciplinary hearing was conducted over two days in April. The document is signed by the chair of the City disciplinary committee, councillor Benedicta van Minnen.

“The rules of natural justice were complied with, and McCarthy was represented by councillor Frank Raymond. Councillor McCarthy pleaded not guilty to the charge put to her but admitted that her conduct was common cause.

“A bundle of documents was introduced into the record, and the initiator called two witnesses to testify on behalf of the City.

“Councillor McCarthy’s representative called her as a witness to testify. The legal requirements for procedural fairness were thus satisfied,” Van Minnen’s report notes.

“In dealing with applications such as liquor licences it is important to ensure as high a level of accuracy as possible, and there is a duty on the councillor, in particular, to ensure that any information they supply to the subcouncil is accurate, particularly given the prejudice that a person could suffer as a result of the incorrect information being relayed by a councillor.

“It is thus beholden on the councillor to act reasonably to ensure that the information they supply has been checked for veracity and that they act within the code of conduct for councillors,” the report said.

The disciplinary panel did not find any indication that McCarthy deliberately provided false information, but it was clear she was negligent in not making any attempt to test the veracity of the information.

“McCarthy was also aware, or should have been aware, that the information she supplied would have the effect of the subcouncil deciding to not support the application, which should have been sufficient to ensure she made an extra effort to exercise due diligence regarding the accuracy of the information she supplied,” the report said.

The panel also rejected the argument that McCarthy was protected by the Western Cape Privileges and Immunity of Councillors Act.

“McCarthy did not show any remorse for her negligent action, and instead relied on trying to raise the defence that her comments were covered by the Western Cape Privileges and Immunity of Councillors Act,” the report said.

Asked for comment, Van Minnen said the report was withdrawn due a “correction”. She, however, refused to provide details of when the offence took place and when the disciplinary hearing was held.

At next month’s council meeting, given no changes, the council will be asked to approve a sanction of a written warning and R20000 fine, of which R10000 is suspended for 12 months.

Cape Argus