Sacked CEO fights to have case heard
SACKED Logan council chief executive officer Sharon Kelsey has argued for a court to reject a bid by ex-mayor Luke Smith and seven councillors to stall her lawsuit until after their criminal trials.
Ms Kelsey's lawyers today argued in Brisbane's Supreme Court that delaying her lawsuit against the eight former Logan council politicians would destroy her chances of returning to her top council job if she won the case.
She launched the legal action against her February 2018 termination, which she alleges was a reprisal action against her reporting corruption allegations against Smith to authorities.
Smith and the seven councillors have denied the allegation, citing instead performance grounds.
Ms Kelsey's legal action was close to being finalised in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission in April when the Crime and Corruption Commission charged Smith and the seven councillors (Russell Lutton, Steve Swenson, Cherie Dalley, Laurie Smith, Phil Pidgeon, Trevina Schwartz and Jennie Breene) with fraud over her termination.
All eight are defending the charges.
The CCC allege Smith and the councillors dishonestly caused a detriment to Ms Kelsey by plotting to sack her after she reported corruption allegations, costing her a $100,000 in lost wages.
Smith by then was already fighting unrelated charges of official corruption and perjury.
After being charged, the eight politicians asked the QIRC for Ms Kelsey's action to be put on hold because of the risk of publicity around the decision prejudicing their criminal trials.
But the QIRC decided in June it could proceed. An appeal of that decision was also rejected by Industrial Court President Glenn Martin in July, prompting the eight to go to the Court of Appeal.
Ms Kelsey's barrister Christopher Murdoch today told the court Ms Kelsey would have no job to go back to if her case were stayed, as the criminal matters were highly unlikely to be resolved before her council contract expired in June 2021.
He said the best she could then hope for was compensation.
"(The) court could reinstate our client after June 2021, but the question is: To what?" he said.
"Ultimately it's a question of balancing the interests of justice between the parties," he said.
"The interest of one party ought not to be the sole focus because there are two parties here."
He said an offer by the council to pay her salary "by way of a loan" until the case was over had also now been withdrawn.
Ms Kelsey has had to self-fund her legal costs, while the council, Smith and the seven councillors have had their legal bills covered by council's insurance policy. Each has separate legal counsel.
Legal counsel for Smith and the seven councillors have argued the QIRC case should be delayed as there was a "crucial overlap" with the criminal matters in that both considered whether the reason given for Ms Kelsey's sacking was dishonest.
"What we are considering is ensuring the fairness of the trial and integrity of the trial of our clients," barrister for the seven councillors Warren Friend told the court.
"There has been a great deal of publicity. Double page spreads in The Courier-Mail," he said.
Both sides indicated they would support an alternative solution where Ms Kelsey's case could continue, but the outcome not made public until after the criminal cases were resolved.