Chris Loft arriving with his lawyer Angelo Venardos at day three of the ex-mayor’s trial at Hervey Bay District Court.
Chris Loft arriving with his lawyer Angelo Venardos at day three of the ex-mayor’s trial at Hervey Bay District Court.

TRIAL: Ex-mayor says he needed help to ‘clean up the place’

BRIAN Downie was so confident he was going to be the mayor's new assistant, he told a rival applicant the job was already his.

This claim is what Hervey Bay District Court was told fuelled a complaint that spurred a corruption watchdog investigation into Chris Loft.

During day three of the former mayor's trial, the court heard from Sergeant Troy Newman, a detective who looked into Mr Loft.

Mr Loft is charged with misconduct in a public office following allegations he tailored a job and manipulated the hiring process to favour Mr Downie.

The jury was played videos from Mr Loft's interviews with the Crime and Corruption Commission in November, 2017.

The recordings revealed Sgt Newman questioned Mr Loft about a meeting at his Maryborough office with his personal assistant, Mr Downie and Amanda Chapman.

The meeting was allegedly about Ms Chapman's intention to apply for the "mayoral executive officer" position, which she later did.

"I remember her as she was extremely manipulative, I sensed it very early in our discussion … it was alarming," he said.

"I have since found out she has done this before … tried to apply pressure to get a job."

Sgt Newman asked Mr Loft if he remembered a conversation between Mr Downie and Ms Chapman while he was on a phone call.

It is alleged Mr Downie told Ms Chapman he had written the job description, it was for him and she would not get it.

Sgt Newman said Ms Chapman's complaint about this conversation was part of the CCC investigation.

During the interview Mr Loft was pressed on why a mayor's assistant would need experience starting up businesses and knowledge of Work Place Health and Safety policies.

The job description mirrored Mr Downie's resume the court heard.

In response, Mr Loft claimed he wanted to "equip the mayor's office" with economic development experience and admitted sending the short-listed applicants for the mayoral executive assistant position to Mr Downie.

He then received a spreadsheet from Mr Downie with notes on why the short-listed applicants did not meet the job criteria.

"Brian was assisting me all the way through," Mr Loft said.

He was asked if he thought it was appropriate for a job applicant to be given other people's applications for the same job.

Mr Loft replied "I am clear in my motive of just wanting the best person to get into the job to assist me to try to clean up this place. I have a combatant CEO, who at every turn is trying to bury me."

Sgt Newman stressed the allegation was Mr Loft saw "Mr Downie as the best person for the job and wanted him in the position".

The court was told Mr Loft emailed then chief executive officer, Lisa Desmond, to tell her the job application was "fundamentally flawed" and the selection criteria had been amended from his original copy.

The crown alleged this email was based off a "draft response" sent to Mr Loft by Mr Downie.

He said he asked Ms Desmond to review the 30 applicants again.

"Including and ideally Mr Downie?" Sgt Newman asked in the video.

Mr Loft replied: "Her (the CEO's) intentions were very very clear, not to assist me in my role as mayor. This process had gone on for about seven months and I only had an assistant for four days a week".

Sgt Newman questioned Mr Loft if the only thing that stopped Anne Nioa, the preferred candidate by the selection panel, from getting the job was the fact he refused to meet her.

"Absolutely, it was the biggest set-up of all time. The executive assistant to the mayor and the mayor has no say in it. And the person is the best friend or a very good friend of the CEO, former councillor and wants to be the next mayor," Mr Loft said.

"(I couldn't work with her) because there has to be a certain amount of trust or similar ethics I suppose. No way I would work with her knowing she was the best friend of CEO who is trying to derail me at every turn."

Earlier in the trial, Ms Desmond described her relationship with Ms Nioa as "respectful" but denied the pair were friends.

Mr Loft agreed he was ideally looking for someone like Mr Downie but denied making the job specially to suit him.

"I never promised him a job," Mr Loft said.

The court was told Mr Downie worked for Mr Loft as someone "he could run things past" as a "sounding board" and was paid "about $6000 a month" in a "gentlemen's agreement".

Crown Prosecutor Sam Bain rested his case just after 1pm yesterday.

When called upon, Mr Loft indicated he did not want to present more evidence in the form of witnesses or taking the stand himself.

The case will continue at 10am tomorrow, when the jury is expected to hear final arguments.