''Questions to answer'': Labor MLC Adam Searle. Photo: Supplied
Labor's deputy leader in the upper house, Adam Searle, earned more than $10,000 in legal fees from the Crown Solicitor last year in a possible breach of laws banning MPs from earning an income from government agencies.
Mr Searle denies he has broken the law - a breach of which is punishable by the loss of his seat - but Finance Minister Andrew Constance has said there are serious questions to answer.
''This is a serious matter that calls into question Adam Searle's position in the Labor leadership team,'' Mr Constance said. ''There are serious legal and ethical question marks over this secondary employment.''
Under the Constitution Act, MPs holding ''any contract or agreement for or on account of the Public Service of NSW'' are ineligible to sit in the Parliament.
Records show Mr Searle earned $10,725 in fees from the Crown Solicitor's Office last year.
At the time Mr Searle worked as a barrister in private practice before Opposition Leader John Robertson banned secondary employment for members of his shadow cabinet earlier this year.
It is understood Mr Searle criticised the ban, claiming to have an arrangement with Labor head office to continue his private legal work when he entered Parliament.
The Constitution Act says that an MP's seat ''shall be declared vacant'' if they have broken the law.
Similar provisions at a federal level tripped up former Liberal MP Jackie Kelly in 1996 because she was an airforce officer at the time she was elected to the seat of Lindsay.
Mr Searle said he had accepted a brief from a state government agency but did not ''believe'' it was a breach of the act. He argued the work was covered by an exemption in the act for contractors providing services to government agencies.
''Even if that is not correct, to be in breach a 'contract' would have to be ongoing or continuous, making an MP analogous to a government employee,'' he said.
''It would also have to be one where there was a 'real chance' the MP would be unduly influenced in the exercise of parliamentary duties by the government, and possibly where the government was also at risk of being unduly influenced by the MP. This does not apply in relation to myself.''
However, Mr Constance said it showed that Labor was ''still stuck in the rotten era of Eddie Obeid'' despite Mr Robertson's pledge to improve standards.