Former Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has been at the centre of sexual harassment allegations since two fellow councillors made claims against him late last year.
However, an investigation into a separate accusation has returned an inconclusive verdict because Mr Doyle was too ill to answer questions about his conduct.
Charles Scerri QC conducted the probe into Mr Doyle, which related to claims that he had groped a woman’s inner thigh at a black-tie event when he was the chairman of Melbourne Health in 2016.
The complainant said the incident occurred while her husband and daughter were seated just metres away.
While the investigation was inconclusive, a summary of the findings was quick to emphasise that the woman’s honesty was not being called into question.
“Mr Scerri has no reason to doubt, and at present does not doubt, the veracity of the complainant. However, because of ill health, Mr Doyle has been unable to respond to the allegations,” the report stated.
“In the absence of any response from Mr Doyle, Mr Scerri is not able to reach, and has not reached, any conclusions about the allegations.”
Nevertheless, Mr Scerri’s investigation claimed Melbourne Health had responded to the complainant’s allegations appropriately. The organisation’s formal policies and procedures for handling sexual harassment complaints were also found adequate.
Accusations of impropriety against Mr Doyle first arose in December last year, when former Melbourne councillor Tessa Sullivan claimed he grabbed her breast while they were in his mayoral car in May 2017. Another councillor, Cathy Oke, came forward soon after, alleging that Mr Doyle had stroked her thigh repeatedly at a council dinner in 2014. She added that he also tried to kiss her after a meeting in late 2016 or early 2017.
Mr Doyle has refuted all allegations made against him, but stepped down as mayor in February. A council investigation ruled in March that the incidents occurred, creating an unsafe working environment for the women. The council also found the former mayor had been drinking red wine on every occasion of sexual harassment.
“It is a huge vindication after 11 weeks of waiting,” Ms Sullivan told ABC radio. “Four findings of gross misconduct really display the vulgarity and the disgusting actions by Robert Doyle towards us.”
Anyone who suffers sexual impropriety in an institutional setting in NSW may be entitled to compensation under state liability laws if the organisation failed to protect people to whom a duty of care is owed.
If you would like to discuss sexual, physical or emotional abuse that you’ve experienced, please contact a committed and compassionate legal expert at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.