The state’s consumer watchdog is investigating the region’s troubled aerial patrol but has so far resisted calls to appoint an administrator.
Patrol insiders contacted the department in December, alleging funds intended for the region’s charitable shark-spotting service had been misappropriated.
The group – treasurer John Weston, vice-president Mike Galliano and board adviser Graham Pike – provided a forensic accountant’s report in a bid to prove wrongdoing, and asked that an administrator be appointed.
Mr Pike claims the board was “completely blindsided” by patrol president and general manager, Harry Mitchell.
“Fair Trading has a legal obligation to clean up organisations like AAP, and certainly to protect donors’ money,” Mr Pike said.
“An administrator can help us sort out some of the administrative and financial problems.”
Mr Mitchell denies the claims against him. He told the Mercury the patrol’s finances were the responsibility of its treasurer.
“In any organisation the treasurer has responsibility to ensure those processes are adhered to and followed through – anything to do with financial records and activities and statements of accounts.”
A NSW Fair Trading spokeswoman confirmed the department had reviewed allegations of “internal governance issues, misappropriation of funds and pecuniary gain by Mr Harry Mitchell”.
“However the [forensic accounting] report very clearly states that the documentation on which the forensic report is based is incomplete”.
“Fair Trading requested various documentation from the association and its auditor to determine whether there is any evidence of breaches of the Act.”
“Fair Trading’s detailed review indicated significant internal governance and control issues, including an apparent lack of review of the association’s affairs by the previous committees.
“Fair Trading does not have the authority to deal with matters of internal governance which are largely governed by the association’s constitution. The Committee collectively is responsible for the ... internal governance of the association’s affairs.”
“This includes the employment of staff and contracts entered into as well as contractual performance issues.
“Fair Trading is continuing to make inquiries about the association’s compliance with the Associations Incorporation Act 2009 in order to determine whether any enforcement action is required. However based on the documentation currently available, Fair Trading cannot be satisfied that grounds exist for it to appoint an administrator.”