’Propensity to lie’: Fallen Ipswich CEO’s appeal rejected
CROOKED former Ipswich council chief executive Carl Wulff and three others have had their appeals for less jail time over hundreds of thousands of dollars in corrupt payments rejected.
The Court of Appeal in Brisbane this morning knocked back the appeals of Wulff, his wife Sharon Oxenbridge, veteran business Wayne Myers and council contractor Claude Walker.
All four had argued that the period of actual custody made their sentences "manifestly excessive."
Wulff was sentenced to five years' prison, suspended after 20 months, in February after being found guilty of pocketing $241,000 in bribes from council contractors, including a free deck.
Before his sentencing, Wulff's lawyers had pointed out his offer to take part in "an education program which he would carry out to educate councillors about the dangers of corruption".
Wulff had found a job as a traffic controller and offered to help the Crime and corruption Commission "engage with local councils to give them an insight into the consequences of corruption," the court was told.
But all three judges of the Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed the four appeals, referring to the seriousness of the offending.
Justice Philip Morrison, in his reasons for refusing the appeal, said Wulff was "centrally involved in the instigation of two corrupt schemes" and the planning of "relatively sophisticated steps to camouflage the truth of the arrangements and the fact of the payments".
"When the whole thing began to unravel because of the CCC's investigation, Wulff took steps to persuade others to join him in lying to the CCC about the arrangements and thereby to thwart the investigation," he said.
"He thus exhibited a propensity to not only lie to himself, but to encourage others to lie on his behalf."
The corrupt deals were an "egregious breach of trust," but his attempt to pervert the course of justice struck "well beyond the council, and at the heart of the legal system," he said.
Wulff has been in jail since late December. He was Ipswich council's CEO from July 2006 to December 2013, during which time he entered two kickback deals.
In one, Walker, a council contractor who picked up flood recover work, made $5000 in cash payments to Wulff, then transferred $99,000 to Wulff and Oxenbridge's company Bojangles.
Walker was sentenced to three years' prison, suspended after nine months.
Oxenbridge was sentenced to three years' prison, suspended after nine months, for her role in the corrupt deals.
Her lawyers argued the sentence was excessive as she had participated at "arm's length," did not instigate the corrupt deals and was subject to "a level of coercion by Wulff."
But Justice Morrison said she was a "willing participant who knowingly aided and abetted" the corrupt deals by signing false documents and allowing her company to be used to funnel money.
She had entered a "bogus consulting agreement" to try hide the kickbacks paid by Myers.
Myers, a well-connected veteran business and close mate of late Labor state treasurer Terry Mackenroth, was the middle man in the second corrupt deal.
He met Wulff through his friend of more than a decade, former Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale.
Wulff would later funnel bribes to Wulff and Oxenbridge's company from council contractor Wayne Innes in exchange for council work.
Innes paid $523,322 to Myers, who then passed on $115,500 in corrupt payments for Wulff.
Innes was the first to co-operate with the CCC investigation into Ipswich council, agreeing to record a conversation with Wulff at a cafe in September 2017.
He was sentenced to four years' jail, suspended after 12 months, and was not part of the appeal decided today.
Myers was sentenced to two-and-a-half years' jail over the corrupt deal, suspended after six months.
The court has previously heard that Wulff had urged Myers to give a false story to cover up the deal and "hold the line" when the Crime and Corruption Commission begun investigating.
But Myers instead "proactively suggested" to the CCC that he wear a wire, meeting Wulff at an Eight Mile Plains pub to obtaining "incontrovertible evidence" of Wulff's guilt, according to Myers' barrister.
Myers' appealed on the grounds that his time in jail was excessive given his co-operation.
His legal counsel argued he was unaware Innes had provided information when he went to the CCC and the court previously recognised that the full extent of the corrupt payments only became clear because of his help.
But Justice Morrison found Myers, who was released from prison last month, had already been given a "significant discount" in the jail time he would serve - from 14 to six months.
Myers' had argued that the sentencing judge overlooked the risk to him in prison arising from his helping the CCC by wearing a listening device.
His appeal submission said the judge found no identifiable risk of personal harm arising from the co-operation, but had recognised the risk could not be entirely discounted.
Despite this, no reference was made that he should go into protective custody, he argued.
His legal counsel had raised concerns that he would be known to be an informer and a submission was made that Myers would have to go into protective custody.
But Justice Morrison found the impact in custody of Myers' co-operation had not been overlooked.