‘The things I wanted to be remembered for are all forgotten’: jailed public servant opens up about corruption

By Shannon Jenkins

Wednesday December 11, 2019

Carl Wulff

A jailed public servant has spoken of the impact a corruption conviction has had on his life in a video recently released by the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission.

Former Ipswich City Council CEO Carl Wulff pleaded guilty to two counts of official corruption and one count of attempting to pervert the course of justice on February 15 2019, following the CCC investigation Operation Windage.

He was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, to be suspended after 20 months. Roughly a week before his sentencing, Wulff detailed his personal experience of being charged with corruption on camera, to be turned into a video which the CCC describes as a “powerful corruption prevention tool”.

“You know, I’ve been through a lot of things in my life. Divorces, and death in the family, and things like that … if you want to rate those on a scale of one-to-ten, then this exercise with a corruption charge is probably a 12, and a death in the family or divorce is about five,” he said.

“So, the stresses that you would experience in this sort of circumstance, everything else in your life probably pales into insignificance. The only thing I could think of that could even be comparable would be if you were told you had a terminal illness.”

The destruction

Wulff warned of how corruption can “wipe out the rest of your career” and significantly impact relationships.

“You soon find out most people who are friends or you think are friends are friends because of the position you hold or whatever, but I know that now I can count on one hand the people who I’d classify as still being friends … generally family will stick with you but that’s about it, forget the rest.”

“I have two children, I have a daughter and a son. Again, they’ve been very supportive but they’ve been pretty much devastated by the impact on them and the people who they know who now know, and they have to live with that. I don’t think I’ll ever recover the same level of respect that I had from them prior to this, than I have now.”

The financial effects due to job loss and legal implications can also be devastating. In Wulff’s case, he preempted his situation and sold his home to have money ready. There was no way he could have prepared for prison, though.

“It’s a total loss of your freedom.”

“I’ve probably not experienced this level of anxiety on a daily basis that I [have had] since I’ve been in prison.”

The worst thing, according to Wulff, is the irreversible impact corruption can have on your legacy.

“If you involve yourself in corruption, forget about all the good things you might’ve thought you were gonna be remembered for because you won’t be, you’ll only be remembered for the bad thing you did, even if it’s only once,” he said.

“It’s something that plays on my mind a lot, that the things I wanted to be remembered for are all forgotten, and I think that’s probably more hurtful to me than anything else. Just about the loss of respect, the loss of esteem, the loss of remembering what was done for the benefit of a lot of people.”

Corruption starts small

Wulff had encountered corruption many times since the 1970s, he said, but he had always refused bribes and avoided corrupt situations. That was until 2012, when a business venture went wrong and the global financial crisis caused investments to go downhill. But corruption starts small — a cup of coffee or free tickets, for example — and then grows “like a cancer”.

Wulff warned that even if someone is acting like you’re best friend, never become involved with corruption. If he could go back, he would have refused the bribes, and would have documented and reported the behaviour.

“I wish I had found another way to sort out my financial problems. It certainly would have been a lot less painful than the outcome that resulted from taking those corrupt payments.”

“I think in this day and age, the chances of undertaking something of a corrupt nature and thinking you’re not going to be caught is naive and a stupid thing to think. You will get caught some time,” he said.

International Anti-Corruption Day is held on December 9.

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