A senior procurement officer with Sydney Water, in charge of vetting contracts and assessing conflicts of interest, is under investigation after she was found guilty of professional misconduct as a lawyer.
Harinee Thurairajah, who was also working as a private solicitor, was publicly reprimanded and fined $5000 after a prosecution by the Legal Services Commissioner this month.
The Administrative Decisions Tribunal also ruled her behaviour had been dishonest.
”We found that the respondent was frequently evasive in oral evidence, gave inconsistent evidence and at times lied. She was an unreliable witness” the tribunal found.
Ms Thurairajah was found to have obstructed and misled an investigator with the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner seeking to carry out an audit on her Pitt Street practice.
Ms Thurairajah, 38, is no stranger to cases involving misleading evidence. In 2003, her father was found guilty of swearing an affidavit which misled or attempted to mislead the Supreme Court.
She had represented her father in the ADT proceedings in which he was found guilty of professional misconduct in a case involving a will. Thambipillai Thambithurai Thurairajah, now aged 84, was also publicly reprimanded and fined.
Her own troubles started when, in April 2009, the Legal Services Commissioner sent her a letter seeking information regarding complaints by two clients, but she failed to respond.
In May, a second letter threatened an audit if she failed to reply. She did not respond and the city office of her legal firm, Thurai Rajah Lawyers, was closed. Ms Thurairajah put off appointments and went on sick leave from Sydney Water for pain in her right hand from August to December of that year.
She resumed full-time work in June 2010 and the audit of her practice was finally carried out in September 2010, nearly 1½ years after the initial contact. The judgment does not mention what the audit found or what her clients had complained about.
The Commissioner had initially sought to have Ms Thurairajah struck off the roll of solicitors, but withdrew the request during the hearing.
In another case in the Supreme Court, her mortgage provider recounted that she did not return calls. Company records also note that mail from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to the city address of her legal firm were returned last year.
Ms Thurairajah has been working for Sydney Water since April 2008 and has been listed as the primary contact for several Sydney Water tenders.
The Sydney Water managing director, Kevin Young, said the organisation would conduct an internal investigation.
“Until this process is complete, we are unable to comment” Mr Young said.
(Sourced from SMH, G Jacobsen, 28/12/2011)