Thursday, October 28, 2021

Ex-Perth City Council staffer sentenced to 22 months in bribery case

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A former City of Perth employee has been sentenced to 22 months in jail for corruption and bribery.

Brett Edward Kenny was charged three years ago after a Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) inquiry, but left the state and had to be extradited after he was arrested at a Canberra brothel.

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The District Court heard Kenny, a facilities officer, directed electrical work at council property to his friend, 73-year-old Hervey Alan Harms, who ran an electrical contracting business.

Kenny was able to authorise contracts of up to $5,000 and encouraged Harms to submit multiple work sheets on individual jobs to avoid breaching the threshold.

Over a 15-month period, Kenny awarded contracts worth $349,647 to Harms’s company, with Harms giving Kenny money to pay a vehicle registration fee and $24,331.75 in credit card debt.

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Kenny also tried to bribe a 53-year-old apprentice in the business, offering to direct $5,000 of work each month to him in exchange for $1,000 monthly payments.

The court heard Kenny attempted to cover up his behaviour and gave misleading testimony to the CCC.

Harms was given a 21-month suspended jail sentence in March after pleading guilty to helping Kenny act corruptly between January 2012 and February 2014.

‘Incredible departure’ from good character

In sentencing Kenny, Judge Gillian Braddock said the 58-year-old’s actions represented a “significant” breach of trust.

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“Each of these offences … demonstrate a significant degree of dishonest conduct,” Judge Braddock said.

“This is an incredible departure from your prior good character.

“It would appear you were motivated by the friendship you had found with [Harms].”

Judge Braddock said the offending was of a type that undermined public trust, describing it as “insidious” and “difficult to detect”.

“These systems require trust. That is what you betrayed,” she said.

‘Toxic’ workplace, financial difficulties

Defence lawyer Oliver Paxman told the court his client was motivated by sympathy for Harms, amid a “toxic” workplace culture characterised by “factionalism” at the City of Perth.

Kenny had applied for a promotion and been passed over, Mr Paxman said, while Harms had previously been the preferred electrical contractor at the City of Perth.

At the time of Kenny’s offending, Harms was ranked third on the city’s list of preferred electrical contractors.

The court heard Kenny, a father of four, had moved to Perth for a “fresh start” after experiencing two failed marriages and bankruptcy.

Judge Braddock said she accepted Kenny was ashamed of his actions and may suffer from a term of imprisonment more than the average man in his situation.

But she said the charges warranted a term of imprisonment to be served.

Kenny, who has already served five months in custody, will be eligible for parole in six months.

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