THE Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) has completed an investigation into the Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale and will not proceed with any criminal prosecution.
On 2 June 2014 the Department of Local Government, Community Recovery and Resilience referred allegations against Mayor Pisasale to the CCC. The CCC also received a number of other allegations against Mayor Pisasale from other parties.
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The CCC assessed the allegations it had received and on 11 July 2014 began an investigation into 13 separate allegations. Some of these allegations broadly related to:
- 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 sets of allegations, the CCC's investigation identified 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.
However, based on information obtained during the investigation, the CCC is satisfied that these instances were minor in nature and/or the result of an administrative error. The CCC has therefore determined that the errors do not warrant criminal charges.
In relation to the third set of allegations, the CCC conducted a comprehensive forensic analysis of the financial accounts and practices of Forward Ipswich Inc. and a number of other entities Mayor Pisasale is associated with. These other entities included community funds such as the Ipswich Mayor's Community Fund Inc., the City of Ipswich Community Fund Ltd, and the City of Ipswich Community Fund Trust, as well as another entity Ipswich City Properties. The CCC did not identify any criminal conduct, and, in particular, found no evidence that Mayor Pisasale misused any community funds for campaigning.
It is important to note that 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. Until such time, the CCC cannot make a final determination on funds that have been paid into Forward Ipswich Inc. since 29 May 2012 and whether any of those funds are required to be declared under the Local Government Electoral Act 2011.
For this reason, the CCC cannot rule out the possibility that at some point in the future it may re-examine funds held or received by Forward Ipswich Inc. since 29 May 2012. The Commission will make a determination in due course as to whether this is necessary.
In relation to all other allegations investigated, the CCC did not identify any conduct that warranted criminal prosecution.
However, the CCC has concluded that some actions of Forward Ipswich Inc. and the Ipswich Mayor's Community Fund Inc. since the end of the 2012 election disclosure period have contributed to a perception that Mayor Pisasale was using community funds for campaigning.
The CCC also notes current legislation does not prescribe how an elected official or local council must treat campaign funds or donations in a range of circumstances, particularly in the period following the previous disclosure date and before a candidate renominates for the next election.
For these reasons, the CCC 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.
The CCC is of the view that more prescriptive legislation will improve the transparency in relation to campaign funds during such periods and this will avoid perceptions or allegations of corrupt conduct against local government officials.
The CCC will consult a range of stakeholders in the preparation of the public report.
The CCC will make no further comment before the report is released.