Ratepayers could foot mayor's legal bills

10th December 2017 9:17 AM
UPDATED 12:37 PM

RATEPAYERS could end up footing part of mayor Chris Loft's legal bill depending on the outcome of his trial.

Fraser Coast council CEO Ken Diehm said the council's insurers were handling the legal fees for the mayor's court case, due to be heard at Hervey Bay Magistrate's Court on January 18.

Depending on the outcome of the case, either the mayor or the insurers will pay the expenses.

Should the insurers foot the bill, an excess will likely be passed onto Fraser Coast ratepayers.

But if the courts uphold the charges, Cr Loft could be forced to pay back thousands from his own pocket to cover the expenses.

Fraser Coast Regional Council meeting, Maryborough.  CEO Ken Diehm.
Fraser Coast Regional Council meeting, Maryborough. CEO Ken Diehm. Valerie Horton

"The insurers will be paying for the ongoing legal expenses, however if an adverse finding is made against the mayor, then he will be expected to pay back those costs," Mr Diehm said.

"Councillors are indemnified under the Local Government Act for any action taken against them where they've acted honestly and without negligence."

Mr Diehm did not disclose how much the legal expenses are expected to cost.

The announcement follows a difficult few weeks for the council after Cr Loft was arrested on November 30 following a Crime and Corruption Commission investigation.

He has been charged with two counts of misconduct, disclosure of official secrets, wilfully disclosing information and computer hacking and misuse.

Cr Loft's lawyer Angelo Vernardos said his client would fight the charges.

In addition, Cr Loft only has days left to save his job.

On Tuesday, December 5, Local Government Minister Mark Furner announced he intended to serve the mayor with a notice of intention to suspend him.

Ken Diehm responds to Loft suspension notice: Speaking to media after yesterday’s council meeting, Mr Diehm said Cr Loft would fight the impending dismissal from the State Government.

Mr Furner said his decision followed "repeated findings of inappropriate conduct and misconduct during (Cr Loft's) tenure as Mayor".

The council said it would not speculate on the mayor's future "out of respect for the Mayor and the judicial process."