News

UPDATE: CEO slams 'vile lies' about affair with mayor

Gerard O'Connell. Photo: Alistair Brightman / Fraser Coast Chronicle
Gerard O'Connell. Photo: Alistair Brightman / Fraser Coast Chronicle Alistair Brightman

MAYOR Gerard O'Connell has sensationally had to deny rumours of an affair with the Fraser Coast Regional Council's chief executive after months of "deplorable and "disgusting" chatter.

Cr O'Connell on Thursday decided to speak out after two complaints were made to the Electoral Commission of Queensland that a member of mayoral rival Chris Loft's campaign team was spreading rumours of an affair with CEO Lisa Desmond.

The Chronicle has spoken with three volunteers who declare they heard Brian Downie, a member of Cr Loft's campaign team, describe Cr O'Connell as an "adulterer".

The claims led both Cr O'Donnell and Ms Desmond to forcefully deny the rumours and spell out how months of speculation had taken their toll.

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OPINION: Correct to speak out on rumours of affair

Cr O'Connell told the Chronicle he was "appalled and disgusted" at the "lie" spread.

"It is a lie and the rumour has been promoted by those who want to do me political damage," he said.

"I remain happily married to a loving and supportive wife."

Gerard and his wife, who is also named Lisa, married in 1992.

They have two children aged 21 and 18.

Ms Desmond, meanwhile, said she had received anonymous and abusive letters about the rumoured relationship.

In a statement to the Chronicle, Ms Desmond said: "I totally reject the lies about any improper relationship with the mayor.''

"I have received anonymous letters containing absolute vile about this lie.

"While this aspect of my position is challenging and personally confronting, it has an even greater impact on my husband and children."

Gerard and Lisa O'Connell.
Gerard and Lisa O'Connell. Alistair Brightman

Ms Desmond and her partner Andrew have been married for 14 years and have two kids aged 23 and 18.

The rumours have been around for months and the public denials were prompted after three election volunteers reported them this week.

While handing out how-to-vote cards for candidates at the Pialba pre-polling booth, Dorothy Douglas, Kush Harrison and Christine Parmenter said they heard Mr Downie describe Cr O'Connell as a "liar and adulterer".

"He (Mr Downie) was extremely aggressive," Ms Douglas said.

When asked about the incident Mr Harrison echoed Ms Douglas's comments.

"He (Mr Downie) started saying how he (Cr O'Connell) was an adulterer," Mr Harrison said.

Ms Parmenter has also made a complaint to the ECQ about Mr Downie's comments to her.

"I was confronted by an irate campaigner, Brian Downie," she said.

"He claimed Mayor O'Connell was having an affair with the CEO."

Cr Loft was "ropeable" that he had been dragged into the argument and disagreed that Mr Downie had made the comments about Cr O'Connell.

"I am disgusted that someone has fabricated such a report," he said.

"It's the dirty tricks - I didn't think they would come out."

Cr Loft said he had no intention of dumping Mr Downie.

Cr O'Connell said it was unfair to denigrate politicians' families and bureaucrats in the political arena.

"It has no place in our lives and particularly in the lives of our families," he said.

"You can debate with me and disagree with my policies and decisions but when you denigrate the lives and the personal integrity of my family and the family of a dedicated council employee - it is intolerable."

Mr Downie did not respond to the Chronicle's request for comment yesterday.

We can also reveal that in July last year, a complaint was made to the Department of Local Government with concerns about the alleged affair between Cr O'Connell and Ms Desmond.

A department spokesman yesterday told the Chronicle the complaint was assessed and "did not warrant further investigation".

Following this week's complaint to the commission, a warning was sent to candidates by the ECQ declaring bullying should stop or police would be called.

"Scenes and behaviour witnessed outside this office yesterday will not be allowed to continue and I have been advised by the commission to ring the Police immediately such behaviour is witnessed by our staff or reported to us by the public," the email reads.

HERE IS WHAT YOU'RE SAYING

Christine Hogan: One can only imagine all the back-stabbing, hate and vitriolic in-fighting that has been going on for the past four years but when it all comes down to damaging one's family, home life and good family reputation then this is definitely a no-go political zone. Absolutely time for a brand new council methinks.

Cheryl Chifley I do not agree with this type of gossip, however this has been doing the rounds for a very long time, seems suss to me to bring it to the public right before the election, are they looking for the sympathy vote, I hope people don't fall for it, they both need to go.

Kathleen Schuback Nasty gossip can ruin lives.. People need to think before running their mouths.

Michael McCalman newsworthy? same rubbish topics as usual.

Topics:  campaign chris loft editors picks election fraser council election 2016 lisa desmond rumours



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