ENTER: Former Ipswich mayor Andrew Antoniolli arrives at the Ipswich Magistrates Court.
ENTER: Former Ipswich mayor Andrew Antoniolli arrives at the Ipswich Magistrates Court. DAN PELED

'How the f--k did we get here?' Antoniolli tells CCC

ANDREW Antoniolli told Crime and Corruption Commission officials he knew Ipswich City Council's policies were flawed as he admitted to using council funds to buy auction items.

An interview between Mr Antoniolli, his solicitor Chris Wilson and CCC primary investigator Detective Sergeant Saskia Toohey and investigator Adam Edwards was played to the court on the first day of his trial on Wednesday.

The interview was recorded at 2.01pm on April 17, just days before Mr Antoniolli was charged.

Mr Antoniolli confirmed to investigating officers he purchased auction items using council cash and declared he knew the council's Community Donations Policy was flawed.

"It has very low degrees of transparency and accountability," Mr Antoniolli told investigators.

Mr Antoniolli said none of the auction items were used for personal benefit.

He said the policy had been amended several times and reflected on its changes.

Mr Antoniolli questioned: "How the f--k did we get to this spot without someone pulling us back in?

"We've just crept so far away from what is... where a reasonable person would look and say that's for.

"Someone has to burst your bubble."

Mr Antoniolli reflected on his own actions.

"I'm a person who sets a pretty high bar of integrity for myself, that doesn't mean I'm infallible," he told officers.

"I certainly know there's been a point in time when I've said I'm not going down that path anymore."

Mr Antoniolli said two people held "an enormous degree of control" over the council, but did not name them.

He confirmed one was no longer working at the council at the time of interview in April 2018.

"We've had a culture within this council which has been governed by two particular people," Mr Antoniolli said.

He described "high-powered bullying in this organisation" where there was an expectation people would "toe the line".

"Let's put it this way... my family has suffered because I stood up to someone," he told CCC investigators.

Mr Antoniolli said the "the level of threat was diminished" when "one member of the power team" left the council organisation.

"When the opportunity came for me to step up I knew it was the opportunity to put things right," he said.

Mr Antoniolli said the council was as difficult to turn around as the Queen Mary ship and made tougher by the time CCC officers had spent investigating Ipswich City Council.

"It has been made ever the harder... when you guys are hanging around like a bad smell," he said to CCC investigators.

"I'm not having a go at your guys, I've been in your shoes.

"I know you have a job to do."

Mr Antoniolli said he did not feel comfortable being investigated by officers.

"I still have a very high degree of integrity I guard," he said.

Mr Antoniolli stepped investigators through photographs of items taken during a stocktake of his old division seven councillor office.

He confirmed he purchased several items at auction including paintings, memorabilia, cricket bats and a gym membership.

The then mayor told investigators he did not use the gym membership.

Mr Antoniolli appeared to become momentarily emotional in court while listening to the interview tape.

He said it had been "practice and custom" to use the Community Donations Policy to purchase items.

"When did I start doing it? I don't rightly remember," he said.

Of all the items, a bike purchased by Mr Antoniolli at an Ipswich Cares fundraising dinner in 2014 was the one "that's caused me a lot of sleepless nights", he told CCC investigators.

Mr Antoniolli said he was worried things would go missing at the council, so the bike was stored in his home garage.

"The reality is I kept it there for safekeeping," he said.

The then-mayor said he acquired about four things at the most, per year since 2004.

"This bike is what really became something that made me realise this is dumb practice," he told officers.

"I'd done something dumb.

"The stupidity of getting a bike was dumb... particularly keeping it in my garage."

Mr Antoniolli said handing the bike to then chief operating officer Sean Madigan for official council recording provided the "greatest relief".

The trial will continue tomorrow.

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