A man who made a complaint against a former Brisbane lord mayor for alleged illegal lobbying says the Queensland government’s inquiry into public sector culture is too narrow and coming too late.
- Neil Jedid lodged a complaint against former Brisbane lord mayor Jim Soorley alleging Mr Soorley misrepresented himself as a registered lobbyist
- A few days later Mr Jedid received a lease termination notice for his restaurant from the landlord, the Department of Transport and Main Roads
- Mr Soorley says there is “no relationship between [Mr Jedid’s] false claim and the decision to take this site to open tender”
“I’m happy with the announcement but it should have happened weeks ago,” former restaurateur Neil Jedid told 7.30.
Mr Jedid lodged a complaint against Labor’s Jim Soorley with the office of the integrity commissioner on September 9, 2020, alleging the former lord mayor had misrepresented himself as a registered lobbyist who could help him secure a long-term lease for his waterfront restaurant at Manly in Brisbane’s east.
Five days later, Mr Jedid received a lease termination notice from the landlord — the Department of Transport and Main Roads.
“At the time [I thought] maybe it was coincidental. I don’t know. It was strange,” Mr Jedid said.
There have been questions about the Integrity Commission in recent months after separate allegations about the security of confidential information.
It has been revealed the integrity commissioner, Nikola Stepanov, had serious concerns about staffing shortages and the governance structure for her office.
The integrity commissioner asked the public service commissioner for a forensic examination of an office laptop, which was later removed from the office and the contents erased, prompting an inquiry by the Crime and Corruption Commission.
The integrity commissioner has declined to say what was on the laptop. “I am unable to comment on any matters that may be before the Crime and Corruption Commission,” Dr Stepanov said.
Mr Jedid said the revelations had increased his concerns about his case and the integrity of the whole decision-making process.
“I believe there’s something suspicious there, no doubt about it,” he said.
Complaint against former lord mayor
The former restaurateur has also lodged a complaint with the Crime and Corruption Commission about Mr Soorely’s alleged illegal lobbying, and filed a civil action in the Brisbane Magistrates Court.
Mr Soorley ceased his registration as a lobbyist in 2015 when he became chairman of state-owned CS Energy.
In the court action, Mr Jedid alleges he paid the former lord mayor $2,500 in cash in a car park outside his restaurant.
In his court defence, Mr Soorley admits to receiving the money but denies he misrepresented himself as a lobbyist, arguing he was instead offering support as a consultant.
Mr Jedid alleges Mr Soorley said he had influence with several Queensland government figures, including the Transport and Main Roads Minister, Mark Bailey, whose department owned the lease to Mr Jedid’s restaurant.
“He (Jim Soorley) showed me on his phone his Wikipedia [page. It said he was a] registered lobbyist, he’d done lobby work and he knew Mark Bailey,” Mr Jedid said.
Mr Bailey has previously admitted he spoke to Mr Soorley about the matter, but he referred the matter to his department.
“The minister had no decision-making role in the granting of the lease,” a spokesman for Mr Bailey said.
“Colliers International ran an independent EOI (expressions of interest) process. Eight submissions were received and the agent recommended a preferred proponent.
“The department has advised that (Mr Jedid’s company) Greenbeacon had four opportunities to put forward a market rent offer. The department has advised that Greenbeacon were unsuccessful as the offers made fell significantly short of market expectations.”
Mr Soorley told 7.30 that Mr Jedid’s account was untrue.
“He’s lying. He lied from the beginning and he’ll continue lying. It’s old news,” he said.
“There is no relationship between his false claim and the decision to take this site to open tender.”
Last week, Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a four-month independent inquiry into public sector culture and accountability that would be headed by former QUT vice-chancellor Peter Coaldrake.
“I acknowledge we can always do better. I’ve said that time and time again and I pride myself in integrity and transparency in government,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Mr Jedid said he would be happy to cooperate.
“My case is right in the middle of it,” he said.
The Queensland integrity commissioner told 7.30 she welcomed the Premier’s announcement.
“This was an important first step,” she said.
“However, I note that Professor Peter Coaldrake has publicly discussed the limited scope and duration of the review, as well the lack of legal powers and protections that would be afforded by a full commission of inquiry.
“In my view, it is in the public interest that a commission of inquiry be established to examine the multitude of integrity-related issues that have been canvassed in the public space in recent weeks.”
Ms Palaszczuk rejected calls for a wider inquiry.
“We’ve got a standing commission here in Queensland, that is the CCC (Crime and Corruption Commission) — there is whistle-blower protection,” she told journalists at a doorstop in Parliament House.
“The Coaldrake review is going to be very, very thorough.”
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