On 30 April 2021, Lawrence Ray Baillie, 58, the former Fleet Manager at Flinders Shire Council (FSC), pleaded guilty in the Townsville District Court to fraud and using information obtained as a local government employee to directly gain an advantage for himself, via his business, Statewide Fleet Services Pty Ltd (SWFS).
In November 2013, FSC advertised for the position of Fleet Manager. In his written application for the role, Baillie capitalised on his previous experience as a mechanical consultant and the owner of SWFS, however he dishonestly claimed that SWFS had since been sold. Baillie, in fact, remained the sole proprietor of SWFS at all material times, though SWFS was not operating profitably at this time.
Baillie was selected and employed in the role from 29 November 2013. After completing an induction which included Code of Conduct training, Baillie held responsibility for the management of the FSC workshop and the procurement of parts and equipment up to his delegation level of $11,000.
The Court heard that between January 2014 and January 2016, Baillie dishonestly obtained supply contracts for SWFS, a company which had not contracted with FSC before. His conduct was dishonest in that he actively concealed his identity as owner/director of SWFS by various means, including forging another’s signature when co-signing a contract on behalf of SWFS to conceal his association from FSC, re-routing supply deliveries to his personal address to avoid detection, and requesting suppliers avoid affixing documentation to deliveries intended for FSC.
Over this period, Baillie, on behalf of FSC, directly requisitioned and/or approved 153 orders with SWFS, with a total value to SWFS of $846,787.39. Baillie also failed to obtain or retain quotations from other businesses prior to authorising the contracts with his own business.
The CCC commenced an investigation into Baillie’s conduct on 22 April 2016, after receiving a complaint from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the FSC. The CEO, in the complaint to the CCC, very succinctly described Baillie’s unlawful conduct as “authorising his own invoices”.
As a result of this investigation, there were 46 recorded interviews conducted, 26 statements were signed and over 50 items were exhibited. Following that investigation, on 3 November 2016, Baillie was charged with a single count of fraud for dishonestly inducing FSC to enter into contracts for the supply of goods and services over a two year period and an additional count of using information obtained as a local government employee to gain an advantage for himself.
The court heard that there was no measurable loss to FSC as a result of Baillie’s conduct. The goods supplied by SWFS were not above market price, and there wasn’t evidence of over-ordering or over-servicing of equipment by Baillie.
The main people who suffered a loss were the local businesses who previously supplied FSC with those products.
Another factor considered by the Court was that this matter contributed to Baillie’s bankruptcy. The Court heard Baillie had purchased stock to sell to FSC, but when FSC discovered his involvement with SWFS, his employment was terminated, and he was left with property and debts he couldn’t repay.
Baillie plead guilty prior to trial, and on 5 May 2021, District Court Judge Lynham sentenced Baillie to three years imprisonment for the fraud and six months for using FSC information to obtain a benefit.
The sentence was wholly suspended for a five-year operational period.
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