Dumped mayor claims big boss 'jumped the gun'

Sacked mayor Chris Loft (far left) outside Brisbane Supreme Court. An election is coming next month.
Sacked mayor Chris Loft (far left) outside Brisbane Supreme Court. An election is coming next month. John Weekes

WAS it a leak?

That is one question raised after sacked Fraser Coast mayor Chris Loft trekked down to Brisbane this week to continue fighting his dismissal in court.

Queensland's local government minister Stirling Hinchliffe dumped Mr Loft in mid-February.

Within a fortnight, embattled Mr Loft said the decision to sack him was unjustified, "unreasonable”, and broke rules of natural justice.

On Tuesday, Brisbane Supreme Court heard Mr Loft sent an email to an ABC journalist, in what was claimed to be a breach of rules around confidential information.

Hearing Mr Loft's application to challenge the minister's decision, Justice Martin Burns said "use of the word leaked” might be an important issue.

Mr Loft's barrister Scott McLeod said the minister was wrong to sack Mr Loft.

"The finding here is a bald one,” Mr McLeod said.

There was no dispute the email was sent but "there had to be a finding that the information was confidential,” Mr McLeod said.

Queensland's local government laws ban councillors from releasing information they know, "or should reasonably know” is confidential to the local government.

Mr McLeod said the minister "jumped the gun” by sacking Mr Loft.

He said the minister ought to have known the ABC complaint was "not proven”.

But the court heard Mr Hinchcliffe took into account many complaints before stripping Mr Loft of the mayoral chains.

And on Tuesday, Mr Hinchcliffe's barrister Damien O'Brien rebuffed claims the minister had been hasty.

"Jumping the gun - that is another way of saying the minister doesn't have power,” Mr O'Brien told the court.

"The minister unsurprisingly looked at what had occurred in the past,” Mr O'Brien said.

The court heard Mr Loft was accused of making a false statement about a senior council executive.

And Mr Hinchliffe previously said Mr Loft allegedly used his position to influence a council-controlled entity employee "to covertly provide financial information”.

In November, the Crime and Corruption Commission arrested Mr Loft, accusing him of misconduct.

Justice Burns reserved his decision.

Loft declined to comment outside court. -NewsRegional

Topics:  ccc chris loft confidential information damien o'brien qc fccourt journalism local governement natural justice scott mcleod stirling hinchcliffe

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