Anti-corruption boss and Gold Coast mayor face-off over Logan Council drama

By Shannon Jenkins

April 16, 2021

Where the sun shines brightly. (Image: Adobe/Matt Murray)

The head of Queensland’s corruption watchdog has hit back at Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate, after Tate accused the Corruption and Crime Commission of “peeing on people’s lives”.

Tate’s comments came after fraud charges against seven Logan councillors were dropped on Wednesday.

The councillors had been sacked after the CCC made the charges in 2019. But on Wednesday, according to CCC chair Alan MacSporran, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) “considered that there were no longer reasonable prospects of the fraud charges relating to the Logan councillors being successfully prosecuted”.

Noting that that there have been calls for an inquiry into CCC’s handling of its investigation into the councillors, MacSporran has defended the agency.

“There has been some criticism levelled at the CCC for charging these individuals, and questions raised as to the validity, legitimacy and propriety of the CCC’s investigation. The CCC has at all times acted within the bounds of its powers and jurisdiction when assessing the allegations, when conducting the investigation and when deciding to charge the subject officers,” he said in a statement.

“While the CCC accepts the ODPP’s decision to discontinue these prosecutions, it will not deter this agency from investigating serious allegations of corrupt conduct, and where warranted, placing people before the courts.”

READ MORE: Local government paralysed as Qld corruption watchdog’s council clean-up continues

Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate — who has previously been investigated by the CCC and has criticised the agency in the past — this week told the Courier Mail that being investigated was like “someone telling you it’s raining while standing behind you pissing down your back’’.

Tate called for MacSporran to be sacked for his “contemptuous” and “disgraceful behaviour” toward the Logan councillors.

“I’m glad to see it’s stopped raining in Logan now that the CCC aren’t peeing on people’s lives,” he said.

“The chair is the one feeling wet right now and he needs to be stood down.’’

MacSporran responded to Tate’s comments in a brief statement on Thursday.

“The vulgar comments attributed to Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate in an online article in the Courier Mail tonight are unbecoming of an elected official in my view,” he said.

“I’m sure reasonable Queenslanders would agree.”

The back and forth continued, with Tate arguing that the CCC’s actions were “vulgar”.

“Put it to the people of Queensland as to whether my words, or his actions, are seen as more vulgar and offensive,” he told the Courier Mail.

READ MORE: Logan Council sackings: Tamara O’Shea appointed interim administrator

Earlier this week, after the charges were dropped, MacSporran recounted how the CCC had initiated the investigation into the councillors after it had received a “serious” complaint from the then CEO of Logan City Council Sharon Kelsey, detailing allegations of a reprisal by elected officials.

“Allegations of a reprisal by elected officials against a person making a public interest disclosure are without doubt firmly in the CCC’s jurisdiction,” he said.

The charges against the councillors related to their February 2018 decision to sack Kelsey at the end of her probationary period.

“Consistent with the ODPP’s prosecution guidelines, based on the evidence before the CCC at the time, the CCC took the view that there were reasonable prospects of a conviction and that the charges were in the public interest,” MacSporran said.

“The ODPP considered the briefs of evidence and decided to prosecute these matters, as in their view at that time, there was a prima facie case and reasonable prospect of convictions. There can be no legitimate claim or criticism that the CCC had no jurisdiction to investigate, or that it was misconceived or somehow inappropriate, to charge these individuals.”

Former Logan mayor Luke Smith continues to face other criminal offences resulting from CCC investigations.

READ MORE: Council shake-ups on all sides of Aus

The Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) has written to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, deputy premier Steven Miles and attorney-general Shannon Fentiman requesting an independent review of the actions of the CCC.

It has also called for MacSporran to stand aside while an inquiry takes place, for compensation and a public apology to be made to the former councillors, and for the legal advice that led to the charges to be released.

“Careers, lives and reputations were ruined and a democratically elected council wrongly sacked before these erroneously laid charges could be properly tested by the courts,” LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam said on Wednesday.

“The LGAQ has always maintained the CCC overstepped the mark by wading into an industrial relations dispute — an area over which it does not have jurisdiction — and charging each of these councillors with a serious criminal offence.

“The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission and the Industrial Court are the forums for which these matters are independently adjudicated, not the CCC. The unprecedented actions of the CCC in this case set about a chain of events that irreparably damaged the lives and reputations of those involved and disenfranchised the Logan community as a consequence of the sacking of the entire council in May 2019.”

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