Ipswich councillors 'met in secret to evade CCC'
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Ipswich councillors 'met in secret to evade CCC'

Ipswich City Council organised and held meetings in secret to evade investigators from the Crime and Corruption Commission after the state government signalled that it planned to sack all the councillors, the crime-fighting body has alleged.

In its report into the council published this week, the CCC claims that following the government’s announcement in May that it would issue a “show cause” notice to councillors asking why they should keep their jobs, councillors went underground and stopped using all official forms of communication, including council email and electronic diaries.

Ipswich's council has been subject of a wide-ranging Crime and Corruption Commission investigation.

Ipswich's council has been subject of a wide-ranging Crime and Corruption Commission investigation.

Photo: Geoff Marshall/Alamy

“All meetings were scheduled via an unknown mobile messaging application, meetings were conducted off-site and minutes of these minutes were not recorded,” the CCC wrote in its report.

“Meetings were also removed from electronic diaries so personal assistants were not aware meetings were happening.

“It is believed that this was done in an attempt to conceal their activities and correspondence from the CCC.”

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An Ipswich City Council spokesman denied any secret meetings were held.

"All meetings in relation to the show cause notice were held on council premises with legal counsel present," he said.

"No secret messaging apps were used."

The CCC does not name anyone in its report, which found the council had multiple governance failings and policies deliberately designed to avoid public scrutiny, while a “very dominating senior figure” presided over a culture in which subordinates failed to report wrongdoing for fear of reprisals.

The CCC has charged fifteen people connected to the council including two mayors and two chief executives with a total of 86 charges including official corruption, fraud and extortion. Trial dates have yet to be set for any of the matters, making it likely to take years before they are all dealt with.

Responding to the allegations in a submission published with the report, council chief executive Sean Madigan complained they were “factually incorrect”.

“Councillors and senior officers did alter their behaviour in a minor manner to prevent information leaking to the media, from within the organisation, which could prove prejudicial to the court proceedings or a waiver of council’s legal professional privilege,” Mr Madigan, a former QPS detective, wrote.

“At no time did councillors or senior officers alter their behaviour for the purposes of avoiding the scrutiny of the CCC.”

The state government is set to debate emergency legislation to sack the council "in the public interest" on Tuesday.

The council has brought forward its general meeting that had been scheduled for Tuesday by a day.