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Sacked Ipswich councillors to pay costs of failed unfair dismissal bid

Seven former Ipswich councillors sacked by the Queensland Government amid a corruption scandal in 2018 have been ordered to pay the city council’s legal costs for a failed unfair dismissal challenge.

The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) this month ordered two current and five former councillors to pay the legal costs incurred by Ipswich City Council (ICC) after a failed bid for reinstatement.

Current councillors Paul Tully and Sheila Ireland, along with former councillors Cheryl Bromage, Wayne Wendt, David Pahlke, David Morrison and Charlie Pisasale (the brother of disgraced former Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale), lost their case against unfair dismissal against ICC when it was thrown out by the QIRC in January (2020).

Lawyers for the seven had argued they should all be reinstated under Queensland’s Industrial Relations Act on the grounds they were ICC employees and could not be summarily dismissed.

ICC argued they could not be deemed employees under the Queensland Local Government Act as they were considered elected representatives.

The QRIC ruled it lacked the authority to hear the applications because “an employment relationship did not exist at the time the (ICC) was dissolved”.

Commissioner Minna Knight found an employment relationship between the councillors and the council did not exist at the time the council was dismissed.

Ms Knight, in a recently published 18-page decision, granted ICC’s application for costs against the seven.

“The Council’s costs of the substantive proceedings up to the date the decision was released are approximately $55,711,” she said.

“The costs of the instant application are estimated to be $7975 (and) councillors pay the council’s costs of the applications of reinstatement, assessed on the standard basis according to the Supreme Court scale.”

Ms Knight ordered that if the parties could not agree on costs by tomorrow (Sept 25), the matter would have to return for a formal order.

“The Industrial Registrar will assess the costs upon receipt of the schedule of costs and any objections.”

Councillors will be required to pay ICC within 28 days of any costs agreement or assessment.

Mr Tully and Ms Ireland have since returned to office in Ipswich after being voted in at the March local government election.

All 11 of Ipswich’s sitting councillors were sacked in late 2018 after the Queensland Parliament passed the Dissolution of Ipswich Bill.

Read the full decision.

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