Mayor’s secret meeting over sacked CEO
THEN-Logan mayor Luke Smith arranged a secret meeting at his house with select councillors to avoid creating a record of entry to a council building, a court has been told.
Smith, who is suspended from the role of mayor, posted about plans for the clandestine meeting to "strategise" about the council's chief executive officer Sharon Kelsey, who months earlier had reported corruption allegations about him to authorities.
The message proposed an "urgent strategic meeting" and was posted the day before a court hearing in which Ms Kelsey sought to extend her probation and delay a vote about her ongoing employment until after legal action was resolved.
It was posted on a closed group discussion on the WhatsApp mobile phone messaging app, whose members included the mayor and six of the seven councillors who about two weeks later voted to sack Ms Kelsey in a 5-7 council vote.
"I am also happy to host you all at my home so you don't have a record of entry in a council building," Smith wrote in the post.
Under cross-examination yesterday, one of the councillors in the chat session, Laurie Smith told the court the meeting did not go ahead as "we got the result we wanted" at the hearing.
The hearing allowed a vote on Ms Kelsey's ongoing employment, but ordered that Smith could not take part.
Details of the Whats App posts have been laid bare in a Queensland Industrial Relations Commission trial this week.
Ms Kelsey is suing the suspended mayor and the seven councillors in the QIRC over allegations he influenced them to sack her in retaliation for reporting corruption allegations against him.
Smith is currently defending corruption and perjury charges laid by the Crime and Corruption Commission.
Other councillors in the QIRC legal action are Russell Lutton, Phil Pidgeon, Stephen Swenson, Laurie Smith, Jenny Breene, Cherie Dalley and Trevina Schwarz.
As revealed by The Courier-Mail today, the councillors, with the exception of Cr Lutton, were members of various WhatsApp groups with the mayor named "Luke 7, Team Awesome 2018 Fab 7 and Fab 7 - 2.0".
Smith created the spin-off group "Fab 7 - 2.0" using his wife's phone after his own phone was seized by authorities.
Using his wife's phone, he posted that he needed to "remove his phone from the group and I think you understand why."
In one post, Smith wrote to the group: "I will always have your back and I thank you for having mine."
Another post in the group remarked on how a "500k CEO can't handle a bit of healthy critique."
Ms Kelsey was referred to as "Madam Maniacal," while another urged the mayor to "stand tall."
The author of another WhatsApp post about the door hitting Ms Kelsey hard in the face on the way out remains unknown.
It states: "My position is to not extend the probationary period and to make sure the door is two-way and does hit Ms Seuss hard twice, once in the face and then on the arse on the way out. No, hold on ... make that twice in the face."
Ms Seuss was a reference to Ms Kelsey, who was a Dr Seuss fan, the Commission heard.
The Commission also heard that members of the group later shifted to another messaging app, Telegram.
Cr Laurie Smith told the Commission the mayor suggested they "move on to Telegram" because it was more "robust" and "can't be hacked." It was used up until the mayor's suspension in May last year.
Cr Laurie Smith said he deleted the WhatsApp groups from his phone around the time he installed Telegram to create more storage space and denied it was tied to legal action by Ms Kelsey.
Not all of the WhatsApp messages were able to be retrieved, the Commission was told.
The councillors have denied a political alliance with the mayor or having acted in retaliation to Ms Kelsey's allegations.