An investigation into allegations former lord mayor Robert Doyle sexually harassed a woman in his past role as Melbourne Health chairman has been inconclusive.
The woman in January claimed Mr Doyle had touched her leg and made inappropriate comments at a 2016 awards ceremony.
Investigator Charles Scerri QC said he did not doubt the veracity of the allegations in his executive summary of the final report, delivered on Tuesday.
Mr Scerri said he could not reach a conclusion because Mr Doyle, who has maintained his innocence, was too ill to participate.
“In my report I determined that in the absence of any response from Mr Doyle, I was not able to reach, and did not reach, any final conclusions about the allegations regarding his conduct,” Mr Scerri said in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services.
He said the alleged conduct varied in degree of seriousness, and that touching the woman’s inner thigh “would constitute serious misconduct of a sexual nature”.
Mr Doyle’s lawyer Nick Ruskin on Tuesday said the former lord mayor “has not been well enough to participate in the Melbourne Health investigation and has received no material from the investigator regarding the allegations”.
Mr Scerri noted he was aware of two other women with allegations against him, but would not make a complaint.
“I have not spoken to either person directly, but it seems that a concern about confidentiality was a factor that deterred them from making a complaint,” the report said.
The Scerri report comes more than a month after a separate investigation ordered by the City of Melbourne made four adverse findings against Mr Doyle.
That investigation, by Ian Freckelton QC, concluded he had grabbed then-councillor Tessa Sullivan on the breast. It also found he had touched councillor Cathy Oke’s inner thigh and attempted to kiss her on a separate occasion.
Mr Doyle had consumed “substantial amounts of red wine” prior to each of those incidents.
Other allegations made by Ms Sullivan were not substantiated by the Freckelton investigation.
Mr Doyle has denied all allegations.
He resigned as lord mayor and Melbourne Health chairman in February, when he was hospitalised for stress, after taking leave pending the Freckelton investigation.
Mr Scerri concluded Melbourne Health had responded to the complaint appropriately, but recommended improvements to strengthen complaints handling processes.
In response, Health Minister Jill Hennessy announced $400,000 to establish a trial of independent facilitators to help hospital staff raise sexual harassment complaints.
“Everyone deserves to work in a safe and professional environment. We are taking further action to ensure our hospitals are safe, respectful and healthy places for all,” Ms Hennessy said in a statement on Tuesday.
“These independent facilitators will give staff confidence to stand up and speak up against unacceptable behaviours without fear of reprisal.”
Melbourne Health welcomed the findings of the investigation that it responded appropriately.
“Following its own internal review, Melbourne Health has extended its process for managing complaints to include those against board members including the chair. This review has further strengthened our complaints handling processes,” it said in a statement.
A new Melbourne lord mayor is due to be elected in May.
The New Daily contacted Mr Doyle’s spokesperson for comment.