Councillor for Stonnington, Tasos Athanasopoulos, has hit back at his critics in Stonnington Council following revelations last week that he is being investigated by Local Government Victoria for a potential conflict of interest.

When contacted by Neos Kosmos English Edition (NKEE), Local Government Victoria confirmed the investigation.

“The Minister for Local Government received a written complaint alleging that Councillor Athanasopoulos did not declare a conflict of interest in relation to a number of planning matters that came before council. Local Government Victoria has commenced an investigation into the allegations which is ongoing,” read a statement form Local Government Victoria.

One of the matters investigated relates to a donation in the amount of $3,000 to Cr Athanasopoulos from the Greek Media Group, of which Harry Stamoulis was the director at the time.

The potential conflict of interest is that Cr Athanasopoulos did not declare the donation while sitting at two council meetings where he voted in favour of a development that Mr Stamoulis pursued on Chapel Street.

The vote of Cr Athansopoulos proved insignificant as the majority of the council voted against the development, which is a 27-storey building.

As it turned out, the construction of the building is underway after the Victorian Government endorsed the development.

When asked by NKEE about the $3,000 donation, Cr Athanasopoulos claimed that he didn’t know that Mr Stamoulis was, at the time, the director of the Greek Media Group.

In The Age it was reported that a spokesman for Mr Stamoulis argued that the donation was in the form of free air time on 3XY Radio and that it was part of a wider policy to help Greek Council candidates, hence there was no connection with the South Yarra development.

But, Cr Athansapoulos raised the ante, claiming that the issue in Stonnington Council is that “Greeks are treated unfairly.”

He further argued that during last Monday’s council meeting this fact became even more clear. During that meeting two motions were put to a vote regarding the Greek Orthodox parishes of St. Catherine and Sts Constantine and Helen.

The one regarding St. Catherine, was a motion put forward by Cr Athanasopoulos, for the Council to give $10,000 to the parish that had recently been hit by a fire that destroyed its community hall.

The motion regarding the Sts Constantine and Helen was the granting of a Liquor licence to the church that was also supported by Cr Athanasopoulos. Both motions were voted down.

Another Councillor of Stonnington, Anne O’Shea also expressed her concerns about the dealings of the City Council with the Greek community.

“I fear that there is a pattern developing within the Stonnington Council that can give the wrong impression to the Greek community and I also believe that this is tied to an effort in the Stonnington Council of denying Cr Athanasopoulos credit for certain of his initiatives,” Cr O’Shea pointed out.

The Mayor of Stonnington Claude Ullin categorically denies any misunderstanding between the Council and the Greek community. “One of the most important groups within the City [of Stonnington] is the Greek community and we enjoy their participation over a large number of areas where they have contributed greatly over a long period of time.”

Cr Ullin clarified that the issues that were voted down regarding the two Greek parishes were done so on their merits.

And in no uncertain terms he stressed: “There is nothing personal, there is nothing racist there is nothing against the Greek community.”

In the case of St. Catherine, Cr Ullin explained that they are just following the process since they have not received a formal request from the parish to provide them with financial support.

“Our officers have done some research about this [St. Catherine] and they have indicated that they don’t require money at this stage but only a place for elderly citizens to meet within that community and that’s what we’re looking at the moment,” Cr Ullin said.

On the case of Sts Constantine and Helen he explained that there were many objections to that application from nearby residents. “We’ve had a lot complaints and letters about the noise from the Church,” he added.