Fraud charge dropped against eight former councillors
Cheers and applause rang out in a Brisbane Court today as a fraud charge against former Logan mayor Luke Smith and seven ex-councillors was dropped.
Luke Smith was committed to stand trial in the District Court on two charges of misconduct in public office.
Smith and ex-councillors Cherie Daley, Russell Lutton, Steve Swenson, Laurence Smith, Phil Pidgeon, Trevina Schwarz and Jennie Breene were each charged with fraud in April, 2019.
The charge, resulting from a Crime and Corruption Commission investigation, alleged that they acted fraudulently by sacking former Logan chief executive officer Sharon Kelsey in 2018, dishonestly causing her a detriment.
Luke Smith also was charged with two counts of misconduct in public office.
Queensland Industrial Relations Commission's ruling in Ms Kelsey's unfair dismissal case is expected to be made public soon.
The Director of Public Prosecutions today offered no evidence for the fraud charge against the eight and they were discharged.
Mr Smith and the seven ex-councillors had faced a committal hearing last year.
Several councillors spoke outside court about the trauma and personal toll of being criminally charged and enduring a committal hearing.
Trevina Schwarz said she had lived through two years of hell since she was arrested by the CCC, fingerprinted, photographed and charged with fraud.
Ms Schwarz said she had applied for jobs, but missed out as soon as potential employers Googled her name and found out she was facing a fraud charge.
The Local Government Association of Queensland said an independent inquiry must be held into the process that led to the wrongful dismissal of a democratically-elected Queensland council, to ensure history was never repeated.
LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam 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 Local Government Association of Queensland's insurance scheme, Local Government Defence, funded the defence for the councillors.
Originally published as Fraud charge dropped against eight former councillors