Cheers and applause rang out in a Brisbane court today as fraud charges were dropped against former Logan Mayor Luke Smith and seven ex-council members.
Luke Smith was sentenced to trial in the District Court on two charges of misconduct in public office.
Smith and ex-council members Cherie Daley, Russell Lutton, Steve Swenson, Laurence Smith, Phil Pidgeon, Trevina Schwarz and Jennie Breene were charged with fraud in April 2019.
The indictment, which emerged from an investigation by the Crime and Corruption Commission, alleged they acted fraudulently by firing former Logan chief executive Sharon Kelsey in 2018, which dishonestly harmed her.
The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission’s decision on Ms. Kelsey’s unjustified dismissal is expected to be published soon.
The director of the prosecution did not present evidence of the fraud allegation against the eight today and they have been fired.
Several councilors spoke in court about the trauma and personal toll of being prosecuted and enduring a hearing.
Trevina Schwarz said she has lived through two years of hell since she was arrested, fingerprinted, photographed and charged with fraud by the CCC.
Ms. Schwarz said she applied for a job but missed it as soon as potential employers Googled her name and found out she was facing a fraud allegation.
The Queensland Local Government Association said an independent investigation must be conducted into the process that led to the unlawful dismissal of a democratically elected Queensland council to ensure history was never repeated.
Greg Hallam, LGAQ’s CEO, said today’s prosecutor’s decision was a justification for the former council members concerned.
« Careers, lives and reputations have been ruined, and a democratically elected council was wrongly dismissed before these falsely charged charges could be properly examined by the courts, » Hallam said.
« The LGAQ has always claimed that the CCC has crossed the mark by getting into an industrial relations dispute – an area for which it has no jurisdiction – and charging each of those councilors with a serious criminal offense.
« The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission and the Industrial Court are the forums on which these matters are independently decided, not the CCC. »
The Local Government Association of Queensland’s insurance system, Local Government Defense, funded defense for the city councils.
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