An independent inquiry must be held into the process that led to the wrongful dismissal of a democratically elected Queensland council, to ensure history is never repeated, the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) said in a statement today.
The former Logan City Council was dismissed in 2019 after the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) weighed into an industrial matter and levelled criminal charges at a group of councillors, despite the charges never being properly tested by the courts, the LGAQ says.
The fraud charges were officially withdrawn in the Brisbane Magistrates Court today after the Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to continue with the prosecution.
The LGAQ is calling for action to prevent this from happening again, including:
- An independent inquiry into the actions of the CCC;
- The standing aside of the CCC Chair while that inquiry takes place;
- Compensation and a public apology for the former councillors wrongly charged;
- The release of the legal advice that led to the charges being laid.
LGAQ CEO, Greg Hallam (pictured) said today’s decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions was vindication for the former councillors concerned.
“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,” Mr Hallam said.
“There must be an independent review to ensure this is not allowed to happen again.
“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.”
Mr Hallam said there should be compensation and a public apology for “this egregious misuse of the justice system”.
“Further, the 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 in this case,” he said.
“The CCC Chair should be asked to stand aside while this review is undertaken.”
Mr Hallam said the people of Logan were finally able to democratically elect their council at the quadrennial local government elections in March last year.
“The people of Logan have moved on. Now we need an inquiry to prevent this happening to another Queensland community,” he said.