A probe into the conduct of Queensland’s powerful corruption watchdog has heard the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee (PCCC) could recommend the sacking of the man largely responsible for managing evidence which led the sacking of Logan City Council.
The council was plunged into administration in 2019, but all councillors except former mayor Luke Smith have since been cleared of wrongdoing.
The parliamentary inquiry into the fraud investigation into Logan City Council was told in final submissions that it could recommend parliament terminate the head of the watchdog, Alan MacSporran.
Counsel assisting the inquiry Jonathan Horton told that CCC chair Mr MacSporran had not ensured the CCC acted impartially, independently, and fairly at all times.
“We submit that that failing is serious and reflects poorly on his standing as chair of the CCC. It’s open to you to conclude … that the resistance to scrutiny and to accept error is a problem of leadership and you may not as a committee have the confidence that the chair can ensure the organisation’s continued impartiality, independence and fairness.
“For that reason, we’ve raised for your consideration the question of whether you would wish to make any recommendation to the Legislative Assembly in accordance with … section 236 [termination of appointment].”
The PCCC has been examining the CCC decision to lay fraud charges against eight Logan City councillors in 2019 over the dismissal of former council chief executive Sharon Kelsey. The fraud charges were discontinued in a Brisbane court earlier this year.
Mr Horton said the CCC had “overstepped the mark” in relation to the fraud charges.
“We have submitted to you this — that the CCC did not at all times act impartially, independently and fairly in the matters which you’ve scrutinised,” he said.
“It acted contrary to section 57 of its own act and we’ve submitted the discretion to charge the mayor and seven councillors with fraud miscarried.
“In short, we’ve submitted the CCC overstepped the mark in these respects.”
He said the CCC’s prosecution was affected by an “improper purpose” to help Ms Kelsey and there was an available finding that CCC detective sergeant Andrew Francis committed improper conduct when he delivered confidential documents to the Logan City Council on October 3, 2018.
Mr Horton also said in his submission that Detective Sergeant Francis failed to “properly, independently, impartially and fairly” exercise his discretion to charge the seven councillors with fraud.
“In doing so, he acted in dereliction of his duty as a police officer … and that failure and his subsequent conduct to [Logan City Council interim administrator Tamara] O’Shea reflect poorly on his fitness to serve as a police officer,” he said.
Mr Horton said the effects of the decision to lay the fraud charges were undone when they were later dropped, but by that time, “some significant damage had been done”, including the loss of the councillors’ jobs, reputations and “the dissolution of a democratically elected council”.
He told the committee the CCC had resisted any finding of wrongdoing and positively asserted that what it did, or did not do, “was quite proper”.
Peter Dunning, who represented the CCC, made submissions including that the watchdog rejected the accusation it was resistant to scrutiny.
“Whatever other failings it might have had here, it’s not frightened of scrutiny,” Mr Dunning said.
“It hasn’t acted in the way of a party that’s not willing to open itself up to criticism. We certainly push back on some of the criticisms and we do that because they’re wrong.
He said the CCC had made it clear that it welcomed the inquiry and had cooperated.
Mr Dunning also said the committee should reject the suggestion Mr MacSporran was delinquent in any way in his decisions in relation to charging.
“Again, an allegation of the most serious and extraordinary kind to be made,” Mr Dunning said.
The committee’s report is due to be handed to the Queensland government next month.