Why Ipswich ratepayers are now paying for two CEOs
A JUGGLING act involving manoeuvres in the virtual dark.
That is the tricky scenario Ipswich Mayor Andrew Antoniolli has outlined is in play as the council considers how to deal with the unfolding situation of paying two of its most senior officers while they are suspended from duty.
CEO Jim Lindsay and council's chief operating officer of Works, Parks and Recreation Craig Maudsley are both on leave and full pay for an indefinite period after being charged by the Crime and Corruption Commission.
Acting Ipswich City Council CEO Gary Kellar stepped into the top job this week, so the council is in effect paying two CEOs.
How long that situation will remain in place is unknown.
"It is very early to tell on any of those things," Cr Antoniolli said.
"We know that there are some in the community who have a gripe, an understandable gripe, with paying the suspended CEO."
The council has a legal obligation to keep paying Mr Lindsay and Mr Maudsley.
"We do, and we are regularly and routinely reviewing that," Cr Antoniolli said.
"At any time if there is any evidence presented to us that we feel warrants taking additional action we will do so, but until then we have to honour the old adage of 'innocent until proven guilty'.
"We know these matters can drag on for a long time but that doesn't necessarily mean that we wait until the whole matter is resolved.
"There are other points in time along the way where these matters can be reviewed."
The QT put to Cr Antoniolli that what he was in effect saying was that if it could be established there was an out and out breach of contract by the suspended officers, the council could act.
"That is exactly right, and if that evidence is ever given to us it gives us cause to review the situation," he said.
"But people need to be aware that it is important that we get this right because it can be quite costly to fight an unfair dismissal claim.
"I can confirm that with regard to the two officers concerned that our internal audit people are undertaking an investigation into the matters that they have been charged with and into other matters that may come up.
"But it is a bit like fighting in the dark because we don't know the evidence that is against either officers, so we don't know where to start looking in many respects.
"We have been given scant details by the CCC and I am not being critical of them. They have a case to prosecute and we are not necessarily going to be given a heads up in relation to these matters when they are keeping their cards pretty close to their chest.
"But we are not sitting on our hands which is why we have commenced an internal investigation.
"Who knows what will come out of that."
Cr Antoniolli, who spoke to the QT on Monday about this issue, said council staff members were now aware "this is going to be an ongoing saga for some time".
"We have opened the doors to the CCC and they visited the council chambers three or four times in the past week in the interests of full co-operation and full disclosure," he said.
"That was done to show we weren't impeding their investigation in any way but also to expedite it because the longer the investigation goes on the harder it is for the council to move forward.
"The staff don't have any reason to feel uneasy but it is not an easy environment to work in when you know there is an ongoing investigation."