In November 2019 Chris Loft, the former Mayor of the Fraser Coast Regional Council (FCRC), was convicted of misconduct in relation to public office as a result of a Crime and Corruption Commission corruption investigation. He was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, to be suspended after six months.

Operation Ebulus commenced in relation to allegations involving Loft and his conduct as Mayor of the FCRC. One allegation was that Loft created a lucrative position with the Council so that a friend of his could be appointed to it.

Soon after his election as Mayor, Loft began attempting to employ his close friend and former campaign manager as his executive officer. Loft allowed his friend to write his own job description and set the salary – $180,000 per annum plus vehicle, to be paid by the Council – for the position.   

Loft provided the position description to the then CEO, failing to disclose that his friend had written it or that he would be applying for the role.

The positon was advertised in September 2016. The CEO followed Council’s selection process and appointed an independent recruitment panel. 

Throughout the selection process Loft gave his friend Council documents and other information relating to the panel process. Despite Mr Loft’s repeated interventions in the process in his attempt to have his friend shortlisted and selected for the position, the panel independently selected another applicant. However, Loft then refused to meet with the successful applicant and the position was not filled.

Loft was charged with misconduct in relation to public office contrary to section 92A(1)(c) of the Criminal Code and computer hacking and misuse contrary to section 408E(1) of the Criminal Code.

After a trial in the Hervey Bay District Court, the jury was satisfied that between April 2016 and August 2017 Mr Loft, as Mayor, dishonestly gained a benefit for his friend by involving himself in the recruitment process for a position at the Council that was in abuse of his office.

In sentencing Mr Loft, the Judge said:

…It is clear that the jury’s verdict against you is … (for) … a serious offence, because of the breach of trust and influence attaching to your office as Mayor of the Fraser Coast Regional Council, which is involved in that offending.

and

.. the jury has otherwise found your intent to dishonestly gain the position for (another person).  It is concerning that it appears that you have failed to demonstrate any insight in respect of the complete and gross lack of judgment which you demonstrated in committing this offence and in the accompanying abuse of the authority of your office that was involved in it.

It is clear that in such circumstances where offending of this kind occurs, there is a duty on this Court to mark the seriousness of it, particularly as attaching to a person holding an office such as mayor’s position in a regional council, and to do so in order to particularly achieve deterrence in respect of such conduct.

That is not just the message being sent to you, but otherwise being sent more generally into the community. That is why … a term of imprisonment must be imposed for your offending.

Later in the Magistrates Court, he was also found guilty of misusing the FCRC computer without the consent of the CEO, its controller.  No additional sentence was imposed by the Magistrate.

Last updated: 30 June 2021
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