They All Drank From The Same Well
What were the “Belcarra” Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) hearings all about?
One of the things that has become very apparent to me while I’ve been out and about speaking and meeting members of the community is the lack of understanding about this current climate of alleged Council corruption, Mayors being arrested, talk of sacking some Council’s and also the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) hearings, is all about.
Last Friday night at Caboolture I was asked by a resident, “is what’s happening in Ipswich the same as Moreton Bay Council”?
The quick answer is yes it is and let me explain what has been going on so you can decide if this is how you wish to live and be governed in the Moreton Bay region.
For many years now the Moreton Bay Regional Council has been living a lie in its role of serving our community and the question has to be asked, how can a Local Government have the trust of their community when it is taking money and favours from businessmen to maintain their position of power and rule over our community.
It’s just wrong and the community is only now after many years of deceit finally starting to become aware of what has been happening.
In the recent CCC hearings, “Operation Belcarra: Reforming local government in Queensland”
The Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) website said:
“Between April and June 2017, the CCC conducted nine days of public hearings into issues related to corruption and integrity in local government.
Following the Queensland local government elections on 19 March 2016, the CCC received complaints about the conduct of candidates for several councils, including Gold Coast, Ipswich, Moreton Bay and Logan. It commenced Operation Belcarra to:
- Determine whether candidates committed offences under the Local Government Electoral Act 2011 that could constitute corrupt conduct.
- Examine practices that may give rise to actual or perceived corruption, or otherwise undermine public confidence in the integrity of local government, with a view to identifying strategies or reforms to help prevent or decrease corruption risks and increase public confidence.
Between April and June 2017, the CCC conducted nine days of public hearings into issues related to corruption and integrity in local government.
The CCC found widespread non-compliance with legislative obligations relating to local government elections and political donations. This non-compliance is largely caused by a deficient legislative and regulatory framework.”
For the purpose of this report I’ll keep my comments directed to the Moreton Bay Regional Council.
Who are our Councillors who received funds from The Moreton Futures Trust?
It’s a tale of self-interest, conflict of interest, cover up’s, money and denial and all with the objective of staying in power, that’s what the majority of our Moreton Bay Regional Council is all about, it’s a council within a council, I call it an inner sanctum as they all support one another.
It’s also about denial and this was clearly seen during the CCC hearings with most Councillors saying they had no idea they were doing the wrong thing, as far as most were concerned it’s been going on for many years and why shouldn’t they take the money on offer to help them get re-elected.
Some even said they took the money because of the advice they were given at 2015 Local Government conference and advice given by the LGAQ ethics adviser Joan Sheldon, Peter Flannery in evidence CCC hearing, 21st April 2017,
“I suppose, was (the advice) given to all Councillors at the 2015 local government conference, where the ethics adviser, Joan SHELDON, got up and said to Councillors, a roomful of Councillors there, that if you were to receive donations from developers or businesses or whoever, a third party, then it’s best to set up a trust”.
It’s funny how some people will never except they have done the wrong thing until they are found out and watching the faces as Councillors who gave evidence was very revealing.
It’s become very clear that these “so called” Independent Councillors were in fact running as groups and backed by wealthy businessmen who in some cases had their favourite Councillors who they wanted to support with re-election by giving money to the re-election fund, “The Moreton Futures Trust” (MFT).
One of the things I am proud of is that it was “The Truth – Moreton Bay” page that revealed the details of The Moreton Futures Trust which has now lead to so much scandal and attention from both the public and also the CCC looking into the activities of our current council. The Moreton Futures Trust had been set up in 2012, but it took The Truth page after the 2016 Local Council elections to highlight the problem of hidden developer donations.
Even though the details of the donations received by Councillors are a matter of public record the information is both hard to find by the general public and is also hard to understand where the money is coming from as no donor’s names are listed, just company names set up to channel funds into the Moreton Futures Trust account, it was all designed to both confuse and hide what was going on and this was also the findings of the CCC, that is very clear and why now the State Government has now introduced new legislation to have more control over where the money comes from and who is donating it.
This trust account known as The Moreton Futures Trust was administered by a man named Kirby Leek, an accountant who was the sole person who decided where hundreds of thousands of dollars of donations were to be directed and it was this man who had enormous power to affect the result of Local elections in Moreton Bay.
During the CCC hearings we saw MBRC Mayor Alan Sutherland, Deputy Mayor Mike Charlton and Councillor Peter Flannery all take the stand to give evidence in regards to their part in receiving donations and running as a group/team during both the 2012 and 2016 Local Council elections and this was confirmed by the CCC when many questions were asked in relation to the sharing of billboards, how to vote cards, expenses and money shared and endorsements of each other.
Developer Robert Comiskey’s, evidence on the stand Thursday 27th April:
“yes, the ones that we considered were more professional were – Julie GREER, Peter FLANNERY, Mike CHARLTON, Mick GILLAM, Allan SUTHERLAND are the ones that probably had the most experience in council.”
“I asked Trent DIXON, he’s been involved in an election before with the Mayor, he was one of his campaign managers. I asked him about various different ways to donate to different Councillors, and he said there was a Moreton Bay Futures Trust which donated to a few of the Councillors, and that’s the path we chose.”
So as far as Mr Comiskey was concerned the money he donated to The Moreton Future’s Trust was to fund various Councillors who were running for re-election and he even went as far as to name the ones he favoured, not Independents but Councillors who were taking money from a trust which they all shared together and in a few cases some Councillors even had a double piece of the pie with Allan Sutherland also paying for their expenses.
There was also the case of the Newcombe Holdings which donated $20,000 to The Moreton Futures Trust and here we see a clear conflict of interest in such a donation as Shane Newcombe was appointed the CEO of MBRIT which is the tourist arm of the MBRC and this organization originally had an agreement with the MBRC to receive $2.3 million per year of rate payer’s money to run.
It has now also been shown that this original agreement has been extended to include increases in financial support from the MBRC, one on 17th May 2016 and again on 15th May 2018.
Yes I will look into the running of MBRIT if I’m elected to Mayor with the view of the Council running regional events internally without this extra added expense to our already over burdened rate payer’s.
The community should be made aware that I’ve already spoken to people who have worked for MBRIT and the information I was given was not favorable.
It must also be said that it was Shane Newcombe (CEO of MBRIT), who threatened a law suit against me by way of trying to shut me up and refrain from speaking about him and MBRIT over a silly thing like asking about how a travel agency he purchased was given as a gift to MBRIT, such is the secrecy and actions of these men who conduct business on behalf of rate payers.
It should also be mentioned that the MBRC approved that MBRIT receive $2.3 million per year of rate payers money to run the tourist section in our region, with that sort of rate payers money you’d think a tourist organization such as MBRIT would be more open wouldn’t you?
I have now had people speak to me who have worked at MBRIT and have told me about many things that they had seen while there and I will look into taking our tourist organization back to work internally at Council once again to save money and make it more efficient, tourism is one thing I want to make one of my interests during my term if elected to Mayor as it is a very important part of our regions development.
I will bring in a new era of open Council which both informs the public of Council activities and decisions and also have a better consultation process to keep rate payers updated on their concerns, it’s the way a Local Council should work and that is to engage with it’s community, not shut them out.
Shane Newcombe and Allan Sutherland
Here are the three Moreton Bay Regional Councillors as they appeared on the stand at the CCC hearings who did accept money from the Moreton Futures Trust to help them get re-elected.
- Mayor Allan Robert Sutherland in 2012 accepted $110,500 and in 2016 the Mayor accepted $71,789.92 all from The Moreton Futures Trust which came to a total of $182,289.92 which he accepted from various developers and businessmen. It should also be mentioned that these amounts were part of a total donations as declared by Mayor Sutherland and he had been given a massive total of $443,287.05 towards being re-elected.
- Mike Charlton who was also called to give evidence at the CCC Belcarra hearings and in 2012 Charlton accepted $5,000 from The Moreton Futures Trust and in 2016 accepted $2501.00 from Allan Sutherland and these donations clearly show that by accepting money from The Moreton Futures Trust and a fellow Councillor that Charlton was part of a group but then declared during evidence that he was running as an Independent?
Again creating confusion as to what Charlton and most Councillors perceived as being an Independent candidate in evidence Mike Charlton said:
“I supported Brian (Galvin), as the mayoral candidate. It was for convenience of operation in manning pooling booths and for funding of campaign. There were two campaigns. Where there was commonality in approach to the campaign around manning of booths in my division, I supplied workers to — in fact, I think I had a joint How to Vote Card with Brian in 2008.”
“My campaign was financed through the group”.
(Q) Did you do joint fundraising then?
(C) I attended some fundraisers with Brian, yes, I did.
(Q) When you contested the 2012 election, did you do so as an independent or as a member of a group?
(C) As an independent.
Same as in the 2012 election, Mike Charlton says he was helping the mayoral candidate Bryan Galvin and was “financed through the group” and on the other hand Charlton says he ran as an Independent candidate, I find it very difficult to understand how he can be both running in a group and then saying he’s an Independent candidate.
- The third Councillor to appear at the CCC hearings on 21st April 2017 was Peter John Flannery and in 2016 he accepted $3677.00 from The Moreton Futures Trust and also expenses covered by Allan Sutherland for the sharing of Billboards, how to vote cards and mail-outs and endorsements from Allan Sutherland.
In Peter Flannery’s evidence given on FRIDAY 21 APRIL 2017 at the CCC hearing it was stated:
(Q) = Question (F) = Peter Flannery
(Q). For the purpose of the 2016 campaign, you shared some election material with the Mayor, Allan SUTHERLAND; is that right?
(F) That’s correct, yes.
(Q) Firstly, you shared with him a How to Vote Card; is that right?
(F) Yes, a joint How to Vote Card, yes.
(F) The Mayor approached me sometime in February and asked me if we’d like to do a joint How to Vote Card, as he was getting them done, anyway. He was – we’d share – would pay for the cost of those How to Vote Cards, so I was happy to go along with that because it saved me expenses.
(F) At the time the phone call from the Mayor asked if I wanted to do the How to Vote Card, share a How to Vote Card, a joint How to Vote Card, that he was doing it with a few other Councillors and that the expenses would be covered by his campaign.
(Q) You made a declaration later in the piece, I think, of having received a certain amount from a trust?
(F) Yes, yes.
(Q) Did you campaign on the basis of being an independent candidate?
(F) Yes, I did.
(Q) Is that something you promoted?
(F) Yes, I did.
(Q) On election material?
(F) Yes, from – since 2012, I’ve promoted myself as an independent candidate.
(Q) One of the other things that you shared with the Mayor was a billboard?
(F) That’s correct.
(Q) That was positioned, was it not, on the Bruce Highway out at Burpengary?
(F) Yes, it was.
(Q) How many images were on that billboard, just you and him or more?
(F) Just me and the Mayor, yes.
(Q) How did it come about that you shared his image on that billboard?
(F) The Mayor approached me again with a phone call and said he was doing a billboard on the Bruce Highway in Burpengary and would I be interested in having my face up there with him. Being a big highway sign, it was a very wide sign, he said it would look a bit silly with just his head up on there, so he asked me if I would mind putting my image up there with him. Once again, the costs – it wouldn’t cost me anything, so I said, “Yes, I’m happy to do that.”
(Q) The other assistance I think you may have got was to do with a mail-out of a particular letter?
(F) That’s correct.
(Q) The Mayor wrote you, in effect, a letter of endorsement?
(F) Yes, that’s correct.
(Q) Would that be a fair description of it?
(F) Yes. Yes, sir.
So this is clear evidence given by Peter Flannery under oath that he shared how to vote cards, mail outs, giant billboards, endorsements and all expenses was paid for by Allan Sutherland and he was happy with that arrangement.
Does that sound like a person who is an Independent having someone else doing all of that for him to be re elected?
Again clear evidence that these Councillors ran as a group, supported each other, shared advertising and took money from each other to be re-elected to Local Council, they were not Independents as stated to the voting public of Moreton Bay.
What makes this evidence by Peter Flannery even more concerning is the fact that he mentions that he received and accepted advice from Joan Sheldon the ethics advisor with The Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) during a 2015 local government conference.
(Q) does that raise any concern for you in terms of appearance of your having received money from sources of that kind?
(F) “No, it didn’t, because the example, I suppose, was given to all Councillors at the 2015 local government conference, where the ethics adviser, Joan SHELDON, got up and said to Councillors, a roomful of Councillors there, that if you were to receive donations from developers or businesses or whoever, a third party, then it’s best to set up a trust, an independent trust, and have them access the donations through – from the different parties, and then that trust can then decide on who it donates the funds to.”
(Q) You accepted that advice?
(F) “Yes, I did, yes”.
So once again it is shown that these men are in denial and now looking to pass the buck back onto the The Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) for them taking money and supporting one another to get re-elected, “that if you were to receive donations from developers or businesses or whoever, a third party, then it’s best to set up a trust, an independent trust, and have them access the donations through – from the different parties, and then that trust can then decide on who it donates the funds to.”
One of my policies will be to look into the The Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) and ascertain if it’s a benefit to the Moreton Bay Council to be associated with this organization and I’ll speak more on this in my blog section.
Who are our Councillors?
It’s a tale of self-interest and conflict of interest, that’s what our Moreton Bay Regional Council is made up of.
Here is the amounts of Allan Sutherland’s declared donations to the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) for both the 2012 and 2016 elections and this information is a matter of public record.
Mayor Allan Sutherland – Accepted $188,087.05 in 2016 from various donors of which $71,789.92 came from The Moreton Futures Trust and in the 2012 election Allan Sutherland accepted $255,200.00 of which $110,500 came from The Moreton Futures Trust.
Mayor Allan Sutherland also shared advertising, billboards, how to vote cards and in some cases expenses with Mick Gillam, Mike Charlton, James Houghton, Julie Greer, Koliana Winchester, Peter Flannery and in evidence it was shown that Allan Sutherland also paid for expenses for a number of his fellow Councillor candidates seeking re-election.
In evidence at the CCC hearings Allan Sutherland was asked:
(S) I was the one that asked individual councillors whether they would like to share a How to Vote Card, yes.
(Q) So did you ask more than the five, I think, we’ve seen if they would participate with you in that?
(Q) So you paid the full cost for at least some of those?
(S) Yes, providing that it was fully declared.
(Q) Did you hesitate, having made an arrangement with these Councillors to do that, that the appearance of the How to Vote Cards as joint cards in each case could give rise to a view that, by arrangement, you had formed a group to support each other’s election?
(S) No, I’d adopt the attitude that most people looking at that by arrangement would see that as the sitting council, not a group. They would see Mick GILLAM and Allan SUTHERLAND. They know Mick GILLAM is their sitting councillor and Allan SUTHERLAND is their Mayor. I wouldn’t suggest it’s a group as such but more as a council. They’re the sitting councillors.
(Q) With some of those councillors, you went a step further, didn’t you, and wrote letters of endorsement of them?
(S) I did.
(Q) They involved Councillor CHARLTON; correct?
(Q) Councillor HOUGHTON?
(Q) And Councillor FLANNERY?
(Q) You have already mentioned billboards, I think. There were shared billboards with a number of candidates, also?
(S) Yes. The same applied, providing that we worked out the best – to the best way we could to declare it.
(Q) Is it right to say, again, that those billboards appeared as joint billboards at your suggestion to the other candidates?
(S) Yes, I rang them up individually in most instances, as I recall, yes. I remember a couple of the discussions.
(Q) Your personal disclosure return, which we’ll go to a bit later, shows large donations from Moreton Futures Trust; correct?
(Q) Was 2016 the first election campaign in which you’d received donations from Moreton Futures Trust?
(S) No, the second. 2012.
(Q) Okay. Who did you get this approach from, whether you would accept support from this Moreton Futures Trust?
(S) I think there would have been at least two councillors talking about it. I’m pretty sure it was Mike CHARLTON that approached me in the first instance.
So Allan Sutherland confirms in evidence that he shared advertising, billboards, endorsements, mail outs and paid for their expenses of other Council candidates and yet still insists he wasn’t part of a group to get elected to Council.
Allan Sutherland also confirmed that he was first told of The Moreton Futures Trust by Mike Charlton.
It should also be mentioned that Darren Grimwade accepted a $10,000.00 donation from developer Tosh Murphy’s company Australian National Homes as did Adrian Raedel accepting $7011.17 also from Tosh Murphy’s company Australian National Homes.
Yes, that word denial is the only way to describe the evidence given by the Councillors for the MBRC.