Seven councillors sacked when Ipswich City Council was dissolved over a corruption scandal are bracing for a legal battle to show they were unfairly dismissed.
The former councillors are seeking compensation and reinstatement after the state government passed a special act of parliament to sack the entire council amid corruption allegations.
Outside the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission on Monday, prominent barrister Tony Morris QC said the sacked councillors’ cases were strong and it could cost the government six months salary per councillor.
“There could be no clearer example of wrongful dismissal. We have councillors who are totally innocent, who have not been accused of any wrongdoing or found guilty of any wrongdoing,” he told reporters.
“It’s like someone working at Coles or Westpac being told, ‘One of the staff members has been dishonest, so you’re all sacked’.”
Mr Morris said he was representing Wayne Wendt, Paul Tully, Cheryl Bromage, Sheila Ireland, David Morrison, Charlie Pisasale and David Pahlke.
The conciliation meeting on Monday was unable to find any common ground between councillors and the Queensland government to avoid a full hearing, likely to take place over one day early next year.
“We’re up against the full resources of the Palaszczuk government and the Ipswich council … So we’re expecting them to run every technicality, every argument they can dredge up to deprive these councillors, whom they’ve sacked, of their entitlements as dismissed employees,” he said.
The government has defended its decision to sack the entire council after 15 councillors and staff were charged with almost 90 corruption-related offences.
The move followed a Crime and Corruption Commission report that found the council’s culture was so tainted that corruption was no longer recognised.
“We still think it was clearly unfair dismissal,” Mr Tully said following Monday’s meeting.
“We’ve got one of the best legal brains in Queensland on our side and we’re quite serious about winning this case … there can’t be any clearer case.”
The council is currently being run by a government-appointed administrator.