In October 2016, the CCC commenced Operation Windage to investigate allegations of corruption related to the Ipswich City Council. A total of 16 people, including council employees, two mayors, two Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and one Chief Operating Officer, have been charged with criminal offences, including official corruption, as a result of Operation Windage.
As well as the matters that resulted in criminal charges, Operation Windage found evidence of a wide spectrum of governance and integrity failures, from inappropriate workplace interactions to consistent breaches of policy.
It identified that council policies and procedures were either not followed, or were ignored or circumvented, including by councillors and senior executive employees, resulting in the misuse of council funds and assets. The range of activities to which this applied included HR policies and decisions, community donations, travel, vehicle use and asset management. In many cases, the behaviour continued over a significant period of time but went unchallenged and unreported.
Criminal charges and sentences
To date the following people have appeared in court on charges arising from Operation Windage.
On 15 February 2019, four people were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment for corruption offences:
- Former Ipswich City Council CEO Carl Wulff pleaded guilty to two counts of official corruption and one count of attempting to pervert the course of justice, and was sentenced to a total of five years imprisonment, to be suspended after 20 months.
- Sharon Oxenbridge, Mr Wulff’s wife, pleaded guilty to two counts of official corruption and was sentenced to three years imprisonment, to be suspended after nine months.
- Council contractor Claude Walker pleaded guilty to one count of official corruption, and was sentenced to three years imprisonment, to be suspended after nine months.
- Businessman Wayne Myers pleaded guilty to a single count of official corruption, and was sentenced to 2½ years imprisonment, to be suspended after six months.
On 3 May 2019 contractor Wayne Innes pleaded guilty to charges including official corruption, misconduct in public office and attempted fraud in the District Court in Brisbane and was sentenced to four years imprisonment, to be suspended after 12 months.
On 6 June 2019 former Ipswich Mayor Andrew Antoniolli was convicted on 12 fraud offences and one attempted fraud in the Ipswich Magistrates Court. On 9 August he was sentenced to six months imprisonment, wholly suspended. Mr Antoniolli appealed his conviction and on 11 December 2020 in the District Court he was acquitted of all charges. A subsequent application for leave to appeal the decision of the District court was unsuccessful.
On 12 June 2019 Troy Anthony Byers was found not guilty of fraud charges.
On 24 July 2019 former Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale was found guilty of two counts of extortion, and was sentenced to two years imprisonment, to be suspended after 12 months.
In November 2019 Ms Yutian Li was found guilty of two counts of extortion and sentenced to 15 months imprisonment, to be suspended after seven months.
In November 2019 Cameron McKenzie was found guilty of one count of extortion and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, to be suspended after nine months.
On 30 September 2020 Mr Pisasale pleaded guilty to further charges, including receiving secret commissions, official corruption, fraud, perjury, sexual assault and possession of a restricted drug. He was sentenced to 7½ years imprisonment.
On 30 July 2021, Craig Maudsley, the former Chief Operations Officer of Ipswich City Council, was found guilty of Misconduct in relation to Public Office. He was sentenced to 18 months jail, to serve four months in custody, with the sentence to then be suspended for two years. On 7 December 2021, the Queensland Court of Appeal upheld Mr Maudsley’s appeal against his conviction and referred the matter back for a retrial in the District Court.
A number of criminal matters are ongoing.
On 14 August 2018 the CCC tabled a report entitled Culture and corruption risks in local government: Lessons from an investigation into Ipswich City Council (Operation Windage).
On 21 August the Ipswich City Council was sacked by the State Government and an administrator was appointed.
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