Ipswich council’s corruption crisis has worsened with Andrew Antoniolli becoming the city’s second mayor in 12 months facing criminal charges.
Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) charged Antoniolli, 47, with seven counts of fraud at the Ipswich watch house on Wednesday before he was bailed.
The councillor, first elected to Ipswich council in 2000 at age 29, became mayor last August, two months after long-time mayor Paul Pisasale was the first of several senior figures to fall due to corruption and misconduct charges.
In the latest blight on the scandal-plagued city, the CCC allege Antoniolli used council funds “for his own use to purchase auction items from charitable organisations” over more than five years to May last year.
The independent, but Labor-affiliated, mayor expressed “disappointment and frustration” with being charged.
The former police officer, who is set to appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on May 16, said he would not be stepping down.
“I have never been involved in corrupt or criminal activity and I intend to fight these charges,” he said in a statement.
“These charges will not define me.
“In the mayoral by-election last year I stood on a platform of accountability and transparency.
“I have been committed to bringing about much-needed change at Ipswich City Council.
“I promised to lift the veil of secrecy and to review our policies and procedures to increase transparency, and while there is more work to be done, we have made incredible inroads in regards to significant culture and governance reform.”
Pisasale resigned last June citing illness, but two weeks later he was slapped with fraud, corruption and misconduct charges.
Former chief executive Carl Wulff was also charged by the CCC before his successor Jim Lindsay stood down in January after being charged in September, while former chief operating officer Craig Maudsley is among other council figures investigated by the CCC.
The CCC on Wednesday also charged a former Ipswich council employee with misconduct in public office.
Antoniolli upset long-time deputy mayor Paul Tully in last year’s mayoral election having campaigned on a platform of integrity.
Queensland’s local government minister, Stirling Hinchliffe, said he was shocked and dismayed by the charges and was seeking legal advice to “act swiftly”.
Mr Hinchliffe indicated he would take the advice to cabinet on Thursday but could not say whether any reforms could be expedited in the current parliamentary sittings.
State opposition leader Deb Frecklington said Mr Hinchliffe needed “to grow a backbone” and called for administrators to be appointed immediately.
“This Labor crisis in unprecedented,” she told reporters.
Local state MP Jo-Ann Miller said constituents had called for reforms to confront allegations of systemic corruption.
“It’s not only at the political level but it’s also been at the bureaucratic level,” she told reporters.
The rogue Labor backbencher took aim at her own party, saying it must be accountable for past and present councillors.
“We have had a Labor council in place. They stand as independents but they also have on their placards that they are members at the Labor party,” she said.