REINS: Andrew Antoniolli being sworn in as the mayor of Ipswich.
REINS: Andrew Antoniolli being sworn in as the mayor of Ipswich. Rob Williams

Antoniolli's snipe at Pisasale:'I don't trust mayor's chair'

ANDREW Antoniolli knew Crime and Corruption Commission investigators were interested in his belongings but insisted there was "no rush" to hide them as officers narrowed in, a court has heard.

Antoniolli is on trial in Ipswich Magistrates Court relating to allegations he dishonestly obtained items using council money.

The former mayor has pleaded not guilty to 13 counts of fraud and one of attempted fraud.

A tape played to the court between Antoniolli and the CCC shed light on his transition from the division seven office - where he worked as a councillor for 16 years - to the city's top suite.

When Antoniolli moved into the mayoral room documents, pictures and memorabilia items acquired during his time as a councillor were stored in an empty space behind his old office.

Those items became a focus of police.

"I knew you guys were interested in this stuff, there's no denying it," Antoniolli told CCC investigator Detective Sergeant Saskia Toohey in an interview on April 17, 2018.

"I actually became concerned not about what was down there, what I became concerned about was that it was nowhere near me and I wouldn't call the space it was in secure.

"I was worried some things might go missing."

In the weeks before the CCC interview, Antoniolli asked the council's chief operating officer Sean Madigan to do a stocktake on his belongings and relocate them.

"There was no hurried rush to hide things, nothing like that as what's been made out in the media," Antoniolli told the CCC.

Antoniolli said many of the items did not follow him up to the bare walls of the mayor's office after it was vacated by Paul Pisasale.

The new mayor admitted to investigators he wanted Mr Pisasale's mayoral furniture to be dumped.

"I don't trust that chair I sit in," Antoniolli said.

After being elected he discussed with acting chief executive officer Gary Kellar about collating, recording and removing the high number of items acquired by Mr Pisasale.

"What I want to do is actually run it past the CCC and the integrity commissioner," Antoniolli told investigators of his plan.

"Is there a way we can de-accession it for a community benefit?"

The CCC investigation, which had been going for more than a year when Antoniolli took the mayor's office, was starting to take its toll on the newly-elected leader.

He was taking prescription sleeping pills on a semi-regular basis.

"I had a sleeping pill last night," he told officers.

Antoniolli said he was not affected by the pill, taken about 8pm the night before being interviewed.

"I'm here and I'm bright eyed and bushy tailed," he declared.

The mayor, who was in the midst of undertaking transformational change within the council, revealed he was taking two pills each week.

"They recommend you not have them regularly and I would agree with that," Antoniolli said.

"You do wake up a little bit like you've got a hangover, a little bit drowsy... lethargic."

Former Ipswich mayor Andrew Antoniolli and his wife Karina arrive at the Magistrates Court in Ipswich, Wednesday, May 8, 2019. In May last year Mr Antoniolli was charged with several counts of fraud for allegedly using council money to purchase auction items from charitable organisations. (AAP Image/Dan Peled) NO ARCHIVING
Former Ipswich mayor Andrew Antoniolli and his wife Karina arrive at the Magistrates Court in Ipswich, Wednesday, May 8, 2019. In May last year Mr Antoniolli was charged with several counts of fraud for allegedly using council money to purchase auction items from charitable organisations. (AAP Image/Dan Peled) NO ARCHIVING DAN PELED

Antoniolli told investigators the council's community donations policy had created a view the council was the "cash cow for whatever".

"It's just to help out community groups," Antoniolli said.

Bidding on auction items became custom practice under Mr Pisasale's leadership, Antoniolli told the CCC.

"The mayor would often, I like to call it, put his hand in our pocket," Antoniolli said of his predecessor.

He said Mr Pisasale would ask councillors whether they would make contributions to buy an auction item: "Are you right for $500... are you right for $400?"

He said some auction items, like historic pink and blue bottles from old city manufacturer McMahon's, were purchased "for a historical point of view for Ipswich".

Antoniolli admitted he started to realise the purchase of auction items was wrong.

He said a discussion was had with then council CEO Jim Lindsay about cleaning out Mr Pisasale's office.

"It's about time we got ourselves sorted with all this shit that he's accumulated and all of us have accumulated and we find a way to de-accession all this stuff, deal with it," Antoniolli told Mr Lindsay.

"The response from the CEO at the time was well, we don't know what's Paul's and what's not."

Antoniolli's trial will continue in the Ipswich Magistrates Court on Monday.



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