EXCLUSIVE: He was unceremoniously dumped from a Queensland Council after revealing what he claimed was a secret $170 million slush fund hidden to the public by bureaucrats, but former Fraser Coast Mayor, Chris Loft, says he won’t be taking his sacking lying down despite the Labor State Government using all its might to trample his political dreams and his reputation.
Former Mayor Chris Loft attended an open meeting of Fraser Coast Regional Council last Wednesday (February 28) as a private citizen backed by his supporters.
He was there to announce during the ‘public participation’ part of the meeting his intention to appeal his recent sacking by Queensland’s Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe.
“Last Friday my legal team informed me of new evidence to assist in having the minister’s decision overturned which has encouraged me greatly,” Mr Loft told the council meeting.
“I fully intend to be chairing council meetings in the near future when I am reinstated and I felt compelled to come here today to share that with my colleagues and also with the community who elected me.”
A statement from the minister lists the reasons for recommending to the Governor-in-Council they dismiss Councillor Loft:
“To date, there have been 11 findings of either inappropriate conduct (or) of misconduct against Councillor Loft,” the statement from the minister reads. “These findings have included:
- Breaches of the Councillor’s Code of Conduct
- Repeated inappropriate use of media
- Failure to comply with Council’s IT systems policy
- Use of position to influence an employee of a council-controlled entity to covertly provide financial information
- Improper disclosure of confidential council information to a third party
- Failure to comply with Council’s Public Interest Disclosure policy.”
The findings listed above relate to Mr Loft’s alleged leaking of emails and other documents to media, including those from a former council CEO demonstrating a secret unexplained $170 million slush fund of rate payer’s money, which he had uncovered since becoming mayor.
Following a separate investigation, Mr Loft is also facing five Crime and Corruption Commission charges – relating to misconduct in public office, disclosing official secrets and information, as well as computer hacking and misuse.
However, many in local political circles such as Hervey Bay State MP Ted Sorensen have expressed concerns that Mr Loft had been crucified by the Labor State Government for exposing to the people he represents the corruption and bureaucratic misconduct he uncovered and for fulfilling his election promise of “cleaning up council”.
Mr Sorensen publicly accused the Labor Party in a Facebook post in September last year of “pursuing the region’s mayor”.
True Crime News Weekly contacted Mr Sorensen’s office for an update on his opinion considering developments since his post last September. Due to pending court actions he replied, “I do not wish to make any comments as it could prejudice the court case coming up”.
In his Facebook posts Mr Sorensen called for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to dump then Labor candidate Adrian Tantari who held a senior position in the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning, the department that handles complaints about local councils.
Mr Tantari made national news at the time, accused of physical assault of a One Nation candidate at a polling booth during that election.
In another circumstantial twist, long time Labor member and vigorous campaign supporter George Seymour has replaced Chris Loft as acting Mayor of the Fraser Coast until a by-election is held in about two months time. (Note: The date is pending on an official Notice of Election from ECQ)
Mr Loft has been a long-time supporter of whistle-blowers such as Rick Flori, the Queensland Police sergeant who was recently acquitted of misconduct after sharing footage of other police officers “bashing” a man in the basement of a Gold Coast police station.
Now Mr Loft finds himself sacked on eerily similar charges for whistleblowing and Mr Loft has vowed to fight his dismissal and return to his seat in council as Mayor.
Mr Loft’s confidence in winning reinstatement he has said comes from new evidence provided to him by his lawyer Mr Angelo Vernados questioning whether the Minister’s decision was lawful, rather than his reasons for making it.
True Crime News Weekly spoke with Mr Vernados, however he declined to comment or facilitate an interview with Mr Loft.
Mr Loft’s decision to strongly contest the claims against him could throw a spanner in the works for the Labor government ahead of the mayoral by-election scheduled for May 5.
There could be a number of legitimately curly questions to answer for the Labor government if Mr Loft is re-instated as mayor as a result of the Judicial Review soon after a new Mayor is elected in May’s by-election.
A court hearing on the matters was due to take place this week but True Crime News Weekly hears it may have been called off at the last minute. We will bring any developments to the attention of our readers as soon as possible.