What should Redlands voters think about a Mayor so desperate to remove a political opponent that she prosecutes him through trial by media just before an election?
It is an old trick and a dirty trick and one that is very difficult to recover from. In the USA John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign was sunk, in part, by the unjustifiable attack on his credibility by some Swift Boat veterans.
The day before pre-poll voting started, Councillor Craig Ogilvie was ambushed by a lurid front page story in the Sunday Mail based on leaked information alleging he used his Council issued phone and iPad to access and store pornography.
It seems reasonable to suspect that this leak, calculated to achieve electoral assassination, could have been instigated by Mayor Karen Williams. She had the opportunity (being aware of the investigation) and she certainly had the motive. Cr Ogilvie has been a major opponent of her controversial pro-developer decisions. Indeed, when Council met to discuss the Shoreline development last November, Cr Ogilvie was the one who raised questions about whether the Mayor had any conflicts of interest to declare.
When it comes to leaking Council’s confidential information, Karen Williams has form. In February 2012 she was required to make an apology to Council following her “official misconduct” in releasing confidential information to the public.
Since the damaging leak against Ogilvie, Williams has relentlessly prosecuted him through a process of trial by media. Centuries old principles of natural justice have been tossed out of her window.
To keep the public pressure on her opponent, Williams announced that if re-elected she will institute ethics training for all councillors. This from a Mayor currently the subject of official complaints including that she has recklessly or deliberately mislead the public.
Ogilvie says he’s done nothing illegal, nothing to hurt anyone. So far, no allegations against him have been tested and proven through completion of a properly constituted investigative process. But a proper investigation under the rules applying to local government complaints may not have given the Mayor the result that she was seeking.
Mayoral candidate Greg Underwood has called for an independent investigation to find out how this leak occurred, including the roles of Redland City council politicians and bureaucrats. In response, Mayor Williams shows no concern at all about the leak of confidential information and compromising due process. Instead she says:
It is entirely appropriate that Cr Ogilvie’s ultimate employer, the electors of his division, get to exercise their voting rights with full knowledge of his behaviour.
But of course the investigation is unfinished so the electorate will not have “full knowledge”. The information in the public domain is what was carefully selected by the instigator and perpetrator of the leak, and some injudicious statements by Ogilvie to the media just after he was ambushed.
It’s no secret that Williams has been grooming a candidate to oppose Ogilvie, someone who would say “yes” instead of “no”. Presumably, someone much less likely to ask difficult questions and seek inconvenient truths. Perhaps Mayor Karen Williams wasn’t quite confident that her “yes” man would get over the line. Swiftboating Ogilvie would be an easy way to make sure.
What are the voters in Division 2 going to be more concerned about:
- A councilor who may have breached some Council policies by using his personal issue iPhone/iPad to access inappropriate content?
- Or a Mayor attacking a political opponent through trial by media facilitated by the selective leaking of confidential information?
Of course we don’t know for certain who instigated the leak. It hasn’t been properly investigated in accordance with principles of natural justice.
Redlands2030 Editorial – 11 March 2016