Ex-Melbourne mayor groped women: report

FOUR adverse findings have been made against Melbourne’s former lord mayor Robert Doyle who quit council amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

An explosive report released by Melbourne City Council this afternoon revealed the four findings related to “to conduct that is inconsistent with the values of the organisation,” Chief Executive Ben Rimmer said.

The full report would not be made public — to protect confidential health and personal details — but the partial report found a “substantial consumption of red wine” was a key factor in the disgraced politician’s behaviour.

It found that Mr Doyle touched the breast of former councillor Tessa Sullivan in the mayoral car in May last year.

Ms Sullivan accused Mr Doyle of sexual harassment and indecent assault against herself and fellow councillor Cathy Oke.

A third woman later alleged Mr Doyle touched her leg and made inappropriate comments to her at a 2016 Melbourne Health awards ceremony.

As well as the breast incident three other findings were made — that he repeatedly stroked Cathy Oke’s thigh at a council dinner in 2014; he tried to kiss her in his office after a meeting in late 2016 or early 2017; and in all cases he acted after drinking red wine.

Mr Doyle has strenuously denied all claims.

Acting Lord Mayor Aaron Wood said the council deplored violence against women and was deeply concerned about the findings.

Mr Wood apologised to Ms Oke and to Ms Sullivan.

Mr Rimmer indicated if the mayor hadn’t quit town hall then there may have been a need to force him out.

“Had he remained in his elected position of Lord Mayor, it would undoubtedly have been necessary for the Council and I to consider what further action to take in light of the adverse findings.”

The report by Ian Freckelton QC rejected Mr Doyle’s explanation of the Ms Oke dinner incident that the thigh touching was “a signal to her that he was impressed by a candidate for the (CEO) job”.

It also found he inappropriately touched her thigh during a council dinner in December 2014.

Then in late 2016 or early 2017, the report states Mr Doyle invited Ms Oke into his office after they had been drinking at a dinner that followed a council meeting.

“Ms Oke went with the Lord Mayor into his office but before she could leave he embraced her and attempted to kiss her on the mouth, causing her to push him away and resulting in her leaving his office to get away from him and avoid his overtures.”

The report didn’t record adverse findings of some claims made by Ms Sullivan.

Mr Rimmer said Ms Sullivan took a courageous step to come forward and it was “a matter of regret that Ms Sullivan felt she had no alternative than to resign as a councillor”.

The City of Melbourne last week said it was giving the former mayor a final chance to respond to the report.

A statement from Mr Doyle’s wife, Emma Page-Campbell, said her husband continued to deny all the accusations.

“In doing so, we note that only one of the eight initial allegations concerning Ms Sullivan has been upheld. This finding, however, is not accepted by Robert and furthermore, is not corroborated by a witness who has been publicly reported as saying that the incident did not and could not have taken place.”

She said Mr Doyle was in hospital and too unwell to review or respond to the report.

More to come

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