News State Victoria ‘Relieved’: Robert Doyle accuser responds to sexual misconduct findings

‘Relieved’: Robert Doyle accuser responds to sexual misconduct findings

The independent investigation was sparked by allegations put forward in December by former councillor Tessa Sullivan.
The independent investigation was sparked by allegations put forward in 2017 by former councillor Tessa Sullivan. Photo: AAP
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The woman who triggered a damning investigation into Robert Doyle says she is “relieved” it has upheld allegations of sexual misconduct.

Tessa Sullivan levelled serious allegations against the then-lord mayor when she resigned as a City of Melbourne councillor in December.

On Tuesday, an independent investigation led by Ian Freckelton QC upheld her claim that Mr Doyle groped her breast.

He continues to deny all allegations. A new lord mayor will be elected in a byelection in May, after Mr Doyle resigned last month.

The full Freckelton report will not be made public, but a summary report was handed down at a special council meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

The summary report said investigators were not sufficiently satisfied in relation to some other matters raised by Ms Sullivan, but did not detail what those were.

Ms Sullivan said the findings reflected the integrity of the investigation and the high bar set.

“I am relieved the truth is out,” she wrote on Twitter.

The report upheld that Mr Doyle groped Ms Sullivan’s breast in May last year when she accepted a lift home.

It said Mr Doyle “embraced her with his right arm and with his left hand, deliberately reached and placed it on her right breast.

“Councillor Sullivan slapped his hand away, causing him to cease his conduct.”

The report also upheld allegations from Councillor Cathy Oke.

It found he inappropriately touched her in December 2014 during an informal meeting, also attended by former councillor Stephen Mayne.

“On a number of occasions, the lord mayor placed his hand on Councillor Oke’s thigh so that his fingers were below her groin area stretched over her thigh. He moved his hand in a sexually inappropriate manner on her inner thigh.”

Cr Oke brushed his hand away three or four times before moving her chair away from his, according to the findings.

The report also found that Mr Doyle embraced Cr Oke “and attempted to kiss her on the mouth, causing her to push him away and resulting in her leaving his office to get away from him” in late 2016 or early 2017.

“Each of these matters which have been found established, occurred in the context of the Lord Mayor having consumed substantial amounts of red wine.”

At the special council meeting on Tuesday afternoon, Cr Oke said she was “deeply ashamed” she had not come forward earlier, but was proud she had now spoken up.

Cr Oke said she felt a “real fear” of taking on those with power and feared a media smear.

“It might sound ridiculous to some but that fear was real and paralysing.”

The council unanimously deplored violence against women.

City of Melbourne’s Code of Conduct will be reviewed and council is pushing for sector-wide reforms.

An investigation into allegations put forward by a third woman has been put on hold while Mr Doyle recovers from ill health.

Robert Doyle responds

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, his wife Emma Page-Campbell confirmed he continued to deny all allegations.

“Robert remains extremely unwell and on medical advice has been unable to review or respond to the report prior to its publication. He is currently in hospital,” she said in a statement.

She claimed he was not allowed the opportunity to properly defend himself – a claim denied by City of Melbourne CEO Ben Rimmer.

Ms Page-Campbell claimed Mr Doyle’s “animated personality” was not “inappropriate or sexual in nature”.

“Robert informed the investigation that he now recognises that his cheerful and oftentimes animated personality and manner towards people, both men and women alike, may no longer be appropriate by today’s standards,” she said.

“He is sorry for any misunderstanding he has caused others by such conduct, but fervently rejects that any such conduct was intended to be inappropriate or sexual in nature.”