Hi folks, a different approach this week.
We have had an enormously important and significant decision today in the Brisbane Magistrates Court in relation to Logan City Council, so I am combining my normal Friday CEO Wrap with today’s special edition.
Today, the Director of Public Prosecutions withdrew criminal charges against seven former councillors from the Logan City Council. Those former councillors were charged just short of two years ago in relation to a matter concerning the employment of their former CEO.
From the very get-go, the LGAQ argued that criminal law and the courts were not the place for employment matters to be determined. We have said for 25 years that employment matters should be the sole province of the Industrial Relations Commission and/or the Industrial Court.
Today, we have been vindicated in that view.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has withdrawn all those charges; it is not that they were found not guilty, it is that there was no case in the first place and that means there has been an extraordinary travesty of justice.
The late, great Dr Martin Luther King Jnr said, “the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice” and we saw justice today.
But those people, those seven former councillors, the damage has been done.
They cannot be properly compensated for what has happened to them – the horrible impacts on their personal and financial health, the entire spectrum of their life.
The LGAQ has supported those councillors from the very inception of these charges.
We believe in the presumption of innocence.
We make available a facility through Local Government Mutual, our councillor and officers cover, to provide legal support in these very circumstances.
Any councillor going through a process of being interviewed by the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) or by the Office of the Independent Assessor has the right to be legally represented, and in the event that matters proceed to court, then they have the right to have those matters funded.
In the event they are criminal charges, we require the councillors to sign a deed of commitment such that if they are convicted, then they repay the Local Government Mutual Scheme.
But as I say, today was only partial justice. It is very welcome, but the damage has been done.
For those reasons, I have written to the Premier today, and to the Attorney General, and asked that Mr MacSporran, the Chair of the CCC, be stood aside pending a full judicial – independent – inquiry.
We have made it clear we do not support the PCCC, the parliamentary oversight body, doing that work because quite frankly this has occurred on their watch, and we had previously raised these sorts of matters with them, and it had amounted to naught.
We also have called upon the government to issue a full, unqualified apology to the seven councillors and to compensate them for the losses that they have incurred during this period.
It is only ever the LGAQ that steps in, in these situations. We have been to the High Court three times, and the Federal Court, and today we prevailed right to the very end to ensure that justice was done.
What we need to ensure, going forward, is that this never happens again and that is why we need a full independent judicial inquiry into why the CCC took the actions that it did, and in that regard, we’ve called on the CCC – and indeed the government – to release the legal advice which was the basis for the CCC to advance the criminal prosecution against those seven former councillors.
As I say, the LGAQ is here for local government. We are committed in the strongest possible way to protecting good, innocent people when they are wrongly charged.
Today is vindication, but it will never ever undo the hurt that those seven people have suffered.
I know the local government family will reach out to them, and I know that you will keep them in your thoughts and prayers, and that we now move forward absolutely committed to ensuring that this never happens again.