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Fraud case against former Logan councillors over sacked CEO hits trouble

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The fraud case against the former Logan mayor Luke Smith and seven of his former councillor colleagues appears to be faltering in a major embarrassment to Queensland’s anti-corruption watchdog.

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The Australian is reporting that prosecutors are preparing to withdraw the case, pursued vigorously by Crime and Corruption Commission chair Alan MacSporran despite doubts in legal circles that the charges were warranted.

The charges relate to the councillors voting in 2018 to sack Logan council’s then chief executive Sharon Kelsey, who claimed to be a whistleblower exposing alleged corruption at the council.

Luke Smith is facing separate corruption charges.

In an extraordinary step, MacSporran wrote to the council warning them against dismissing Kelsey, who was on probation in the position and had received a negative performance review. They did so anyway on the advice of the Local Government Association of Queensland.

Along with the former mayor, councillors Russell Lutton, Steve Swenson, Cherie Dalley, Laurie Smith, Phil Pidgeon, Trevina Schwartz and Jennie Breene were then charged with fraud on the basis they caused detriment to Kelsey.

Then Local Government minister Stirling Hinchliffe sacked the council following the charges, effectively destroying the careers of those charged.

The LGAQ has always insisted that the Criminal Code should not have been used to pursue what was an industrial relations matter.

At the time LGAQ chief executive Greg Hallam said the sacking of the council had pitched the local government sector into uncharted waters.

“The LGAQ received advice from its own internal IR legal team, an external legal firm and senior counsel and even spoke to the CCC Chair himself before we told the Acting Mayor (Cherie Dalley) we would back her and the majority of Logan City Councillors “to the gates of Hell” in making a decision to not confirm their then CEO’s probation,” Hallam said at the time.

The fraud matter was listed to be heard in the Brisbane Magistrates Court this morning but was adjourned  to a later date.

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