The City of Melbourne has released a report of an independent investigation which found former Lord Mayor Robert Doyle behaved in a sexually inappropriate way towards a woman in 2016.
The report deals with allegations made against Mr Doyle in late 2017 by Kharla Williams, who said the former Lord Mayor had touched her “in a suggestive way and repeatedly” after drinking substantial amounts of red wine at Melbourne Health dinner on June 25 2016.
Ian Freckelton QC says in the report that he found Ms Williams’ account, and that of her husband Mark Walterfang, who was also at the dinner, “compellingly” credible.
The report found Mr Doyle had spoken to Ms Williams’ in a “sleazy” way, placed his hand on her lower back near her buttocks and on a number of times placed his hand inside her leg.
There was no justification of Mr Doyle’s behaviour, which was “opportunistic and occurred in circumstances of significant power imbalance between Mr Doyle and Ms Williams,” Mr Freckelton said.
“Mr Doyle’s conduct was foreseeably highly distressing and fundamentally inconsistent with the dignity of the office of the Lord Mayor and the reasonable expectations of the public as to how a Lord Mayor should behave.”
The report comes after an investigation by Mr Freckleton in March 2018 found inappropriate conduct by Mr Doyle towards two councillors Cathy Oke and Tessa Sullivan.
Mr Doyle, who has denied all allegations against him, resigned in February 2018.
The supplementary report was only released now because Mr Doyle had previously declined to be interviewed with his lawyers citing poor health.
Council’s decision to release the report follows confirmation that Victoria Police had wound up an investigation into allegations against Mr Doyle with no charges laid.
“The issues that confronted our Council in 2017 and 2018 were very serious. We acknowledge the great courage shown by the women – including Ms Williams – who called out the behaviour of Mr Doyle and came forward,” City Melbourne CEO Justin Hanney said in a statement.
“Our organisation and those who represent it must ensure that the working environment is safe, equitable and free from sexual harassment.
“We commit to our staff and community that we will continue to hold ourselves accountable and uphold a culture that does not tolerate misconduct and supports the calling out of unacceptable behaviour of all types.”
Council has since introduced a new code of conduct for councillors, training on reporting misconduct and the introduction of an independent adviser to support councillors in reporting inappropriate conduct, he said.
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