That is what Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale said he, his family, his council and the city now have after the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) cleared him yesterday of all allegations made against him on June 2 last year.
As a result the CCC said it "will not proceed with any criminal prosecution" against Cr Pisasale in relation to 13 separate allegations that were referred to it by the Department of Local Government, Community Recovery and Resilience and other parties.
"It has been a long 10 months, but I feel a sense of huge relief and a huge cloud has been lifted off myself, my family, my council and the city," Cr Pisasale said
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"I want to congratulate the CCC because they were very thorough. Every financial transaction of my life has been scrutinised.
"But I never felt guilty.
"I could just never work out 'why me' when I have worked in this community for over 40 years and I have always put the city first."
In its release yesterday the CCC said it conducted a 10-month investigation into three broad allegations:
- Dishonestly failing to enter gifts on the Ipswich City Council register of interests;
- Dishonestly failing to disclose donations to the Electoral Commission of Queensland; and,
- Whether monies raised by community funds or community events were inappropriately or illegally channelled into Mayor Pisasale's campaign fund, Forward Ipswich Inc. and used for campaigning.
In relation to the first two allegations the CCC said that while there were "a small number of occasions where Mayor Pisasale did not meet his obligation to disclose gifts on the Ipswich City Council's register of interests" that these were "minor in nature and/or the result of an administrative error" and did not warrant criminal charges.
In relation to the third set of allegations, the CCC investigated not only Forward Ipswich but a number of other entities linked to Cr Pisasale, mayoral community funds and Ipswich City Properties. After a forensic examination "the CCC did not identify any criminal conduct, and, in particular, found no evidence that Mayor Pisasale misused any community funds for campaigning".
"Not only did they look at what the allegations were. They looked at every other fund I have ever had… line by line," Cr Pisasale said.
"It was a forensic analysis of my life.
"I wonder if any other person in political life could be examined the way I have been and come out the same way.
"It has squashed the rumours out there about corruption from all those gutless people on Facebook who like to spread rumours. This has once and for all told them to shut up."
"Every cent I have ever raised is for the community."
The CCC said it did not rule out examining funds held or received by Forward Ipswich since May 29, 23012 as "under the Local Government Electoral Act 2011, any funds raised or donations received since the end of the 2012 election disclosure period (28 May 2012) do not have to be disclosed unless or until Mayor Pisasale formally nominates for the 2016 election".
Cr Pisasale said he had learned that "perception" was often reality and as a result he had made adjustments to how Forward Ipswich was set up.
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He said he welcomed the statement made by the CCC that it "has determined that it is in the public interest to prepare a public report which will examine some of the issues raised during this investigation and consider how legislative or other reform would improve transparency in this area".
"That is exactly what I have been calling for," Cr Pisasale said.
Cr Pisasale said he never felt like giving his role away.
The QT asked Cr Pisasale whether he was now determined to contest the 2016 election, but he said that was a decision for another day.
"Just let me enjoy my freedom," he replied.
"But you can't listen to a minority and punish a majority of people… and the majority of people were giving me support.
"I just want to say 'thank you' to the city. This is a relief to me and my city. I love the city to pieces. It is a beautiful city and we are kicking many goals."