Council 'reconsiders' funding ex-CEO's defamation case
THE decision to fund a former senior executive's defamation case against an Ipswich resident is being reconsidered by the council.
It comes as the Queensland Minister for Local Government publicly revealed his disapproval of the use of ratepayer funds for personal defamation suits.
Ipswich City Council funded the embattled council CEO Jim Lindsay's defamation suit against twice failed mayoral candidate Gary Duffy.
The suit against Mr Duffy was launched in 2016, following the Local Government elections.
According to the original documents filed in Ipswich District Court, Mr Lindsay claimed Mr Duffy had defamed him on 23 separate occasions via social media posts between July, 2015 and May, 2016. Former Mayor Paul Pisasale also launched a defamation suit against Mr Duffy. Both matters are yet to be finalised.
Since Mr Pisasale's various arrests resulting in a host of charges being laid against him, and his subsequent resignation from the office of mayor, the council has ceased funding Mr Pisasale's suit.
Now, the council has confirmed it is reconsidering its position in continuing to stump up the cash for Mr Lindsay's suit, a council spokesperson said.
"Ipswich City Council is no longer funding Mr Pisasale's defamation proceedings against Mr Duffy," the spokesperson said.
"(The) council is also reviewing its position in Mr Lindsay's ongoing case."
This week, Queensland's Minister for Local Government Mark Furner publicly stated his position on councils funding private defamation suits.
"The Queensland Government does not support councils using ratepayer funds to fund private legal action," the spokesman said.
"Given the diversity of Queensland's local government sector, we do support each council to develop a suitable legal assistance policy to meet the needs of its local community."
The State Government's position aligns with the majority of Australian states, which assert councils paying for private legal action is not appropriate.
Mr Lindsay's suit does relate to his role as the council CEO and it is unclear whether the council considers this a public or private matter, however, it was Mr Lindsay as an individual who launched the suit - not the council.
The original documents relating to the defamation suit show Mr Lindsay claimed Mr Duffy's social media posts implied he was corrupt, unqualified to hold his position, acted deceitfully, was involved in insider trading and misappropriated public money.
Mr Lindsay further claimed Mr Duffy implied he was involved in official corruption and, aided and abetted elected officials to gain financial advantage through deception.
Mr Lindsay claimed Mr Duffy's unsubstantiated social media posts and their republication had resulted in his character being brought into hatred, odium and contempt.
Mr Lindsay claimed he had suffered hurt, embarrassment and could lose the opportunity for further career advancement outside of his position at the council, due to Mr Duffy's allegations.
Mr Duffy's defence arguments include; that he, as a political opponent of the former mayor Paul Pisasale, had the right to criticise the council and its representatives' performance in public office.
Mr Duffy says the defamation law states that a public person working for a local government should not sue a resident, particularly regarding political debate.
Mr Duffy says malfeasance, or wrongdoing, could not be established.
Last month, Mr Lindsay's position as the council's most senior bureaucrat was suspended after he was arrested in the car park of the council chambers and charged with official corruption.
Mr Lindsay is now facing three charges; one count of official corruption, one count of Disobedience to Statute Law and, a charge laid in late September of disclosing a confidential document.
Police will allege Mr Lindsay agreed to take a bribe from 57-year-old contractor Wayne Francis Innes in relation to a development application.
Mr Innes, Mr Lindsay and Mr Pisasale are among seven figures associated with Ipswich City Council who have been charged by the state's corruption watchdog since Paul Pisasale stepped down in June.