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Mayor Sutherland discussed $20k donation from developer

The Crime and Corruption Commission's investigation into conduct of candidates at the 2016 Moreton Bay Regional Council elections continues.
The Crime and Corruption Commission's investigation into conduct of candidates at the 2016 Moreton Bay Regional Council elections continues.

THE CCC inquiry into the 2016 Moreton Bay Regional Council election on Tuesday heard mayoral candidate Allan Sutherland discussed requesting a $20,000 donation from developer Robert Comiskey.

Former Redcliffe Leagues Club marketing manager Trent Dixon was a witness at the Operation Belcarra public hearings, which began in April, into the 2016 council elections of Moreton Bay, the Gold Coast and Ipswich.

Trent Dixon was employed in a marketing capacity for Allan Sutherland's successful 2012 mayoral campaign. He was also a member of Cr Sutherland's 2016 campaign team.

"I gave him (Cr Sutherland) basic advice on how to make sure the content was engaging and effective and, whatever the message was, we were using the right medium for the target audience."

The presiding officer at the inquiry is Alan MacSporran and Glen Rice is counsel assisting.

Two prominent issues at the hearing have been third-party donors, such as Moreton Futures Trust, and questions of whether there were undeclared groups of candidates at the 2016 elections.

Mr Dixon did not say whether he was paid for 2016 services but he spoke of campaign meetings at Allan Sutherland's home leading up to the 2016 election.

"Directly before the election they (the meetings) were weekly," he told the hearing.

Counsel assisting, Mr Rice, asked Mr Dixon who was at these meetings.

"Well, the Mayor and his wife. His daughter, Emma. Noel Powell. Myself. James Houghton. Mike Charlton. Probably not as regularly for those two. Corinne," Mr Dixon said.

He said the meetings were mainly about strategy and campaign talking points such as the proposed Petrie University and the Redcliffe rail as well discussion on technical issues, including the wording on joint how-to-vote cards.

Fundraising was also discussed though to a lesser extent.

"When that election came around in 2016 and they were fundraising for it, I went to Rob (Comiskey) and said, 'Is that something you're interested in?'," Mr Dixon said.

Counsel assisting, Mr Rice, asked: "Did the Mayor, for example, raise his name (Robert Comiskey) and suggest that you speak with him about it?"

"He may have or it might have been me suggesting it," Mr Dixon said.

He agreed Cr Sutherland and he had a discussion about Mr Comiskey donating to the campaign.

"Was a figure mentioned?" Mr Rice asked.

"The figure that Rob paid ($20,000)," Mr Dixon said.

Cr Sutherland told Mr Dixon to ask Mr Comiskey to make out the cheque to "Moreton Bay Futures Trust", Mr Dixon said.

He gave the cheque to Cr Sutherland at a place "like a sports centre" on Bracken Ridge Rd.

In his CCC evidence of April 21, Cr Sutherland told the hearing that he told members of his campaign committee there were two ways donors could donate to his campaign.

"They can donate in a trust, but if they donate to the trust it might not necessarily go to my campaign, and that's the issue with the trust," Cr Sutherland told the hearing of April 21.

At yesterday's first session, Mr Dixon said he had never met either of the Moreton Futures Trustees, Kirby Leeke and Dr John Ryan.

The hearing continues today when unsuccessful 2016 Division 3 candidate Kimberly James will be a witness.

David Trask, a Redcliffe developer and donor to Cr Sutherland's mayoral campaigns, is also scheduled to appear.

Visit ccc.qld.gov.au/corruption/operation-belcarra-public-hearing.

Topics:  allan sutherland ccc moreton bay regional council operation belcarra

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