Matt Nippert is a business investigations reporter.

Former Auckland Council manager reveals how he was corrupted

Barrie Kenneth James George in the dock at the High Court at Auckland earlier this year. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Barrie Kenneth James George in the dock at the High Court at Auckland earlier this year. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A former senior Auckland council manager has spoken in court of the first time he accepted bribes from a roading contractor, describing it as the start of a "merry-go-round" that ended with him convicted of corruption.

Barrie George, formerly employed in the road maintenance division of Rodney District Council and Auckland Transport, today told the High Court at Auckland of a function in 2006 at the Takapuna Spencer-on-Byron where roading contractor Stephen Borlase made a public gift.

"At the time [Stephen] Borlase stood up and said he had an announcement to make. He said a few words, and passed an envelope down along the table to me," George said.

George said Borlase told the group the envelope was "a little gift in appreciation". It contained a travel voucher worth "between two and three thousand dollars", George said.

George said he showed the voucher to his boss, Murray Noone, who was also in attendance at the dinner. "Did you know about this?" he asked.

George said Noone replied: "Yeah, pretty good, eh?"

Borlase, of roading contractor Projenz, and former RDC and Auckland Transport senior manager Noone are on trial in the High Court at Auckland facing charges of corrupting a public official through bribery.

The pair have pleaded not guilty to all charges, which allege Borlase paid Noone $1.1m, and lavished other council staff with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of entertainment and gifts.

George, wearing a Corrections ankle bracelet to monitor his movements, pleaded guilty on the eve of trial to accepting bribes from Borlase and was sentenced to nine months home detention.

He said had been advised by two colleagues at that 2006 dinner against accepting the envelope. "Neither one thought it was appropriate in the circumstances that I should accept the gift. Their view was I should have handed it back."

George told the court that, in hindsight, he regretted accepting the envelope - and 19 other travel packages and gifts worth $103,000 - from Borlase.

"That was really the start of that particularly merry-go-round," George said.

Walked through nearly a dozen international trips, including business-class flights, hotel accommodation and the provision of foreign currency, by prosecutor Brian Dickey, George cited the number of trips as a reason he was unable to recall specific details.

"Some of them are just a blur," he said.

George said he never went on any travel paid for by Projenz without the approval of his manager. Dickey asked who this manager was.

"Murray Noone," said George.

The trial, into the third of a scheduled seven weeks before Justice Sally Fitzgerald alone, continues.

- NZ Herald

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