Mayor says he's done with fundraising trust after CCC probe

Moreton Bay mayor Allan Sutherland has declared he will no longer accept contributions from a controversial election campaign fund after he was questioned by the Crime and Corruption Commission on Friday afternoon.

Cr Sutherland also revealed he deliberately withheld a serious health issue from voters in the days prior to last year's March election.

The commission, which is hearing evidence of alleged misconduct during the 2016 Queensland local government elections, has heard at times contradictory evidence about the Moreton Futures Trust, which significantly bankrolled Cr Sutherland's 2012 and 2016 mayoral campaigns.

In Cr Sutherland's 2016 campaign along, MFT donated more than $118,000, which it had sourced mainly from developers.

Cr Sutherland donors to his 2016 campaign were given two choices: either deposit the money into his campaign fund or in to the Moreton Futures Trust, of which he was the main beneficiary.

"If they donate to Allan Sutherland, the money goes to Allan Sutherland's campaign," he said.

Counsel assisting the commission Glen Rice, QC, said: "That's a lot better for you, isn't it, having a bird in the hand rather than a bird in the bush, which is what goes into the trust?"

"Well, to be quite honest, I'd rather it could all go into the trust so I could keep it all away," Cr Sutherland responded.

"But in hindsight maybe now we're going through all this I would have rather that it had gone the other way."

Following his testimony at CCC headquarters in Fortitude Valley, Cr Sutherland said he would no longer accept donations from the trust.

"Hindsight's a great thing to have," he told reporters after he was asked if he would continue his association with MFT.

"I would say 'no', for reasons that aren't what you would think.

"The reason I probably wouldn't use the trust is I feel so sorry for those people who were involved in the trust.

"I think they've done it out of the goodness of their hearts, Dr John and that Kirby fellow, and I felt for those guys.

"So I don't want to put them through that again and I don't want to be in that position again either."

MFT legal founder Timothy Connolly, trustee Kirby Leeke and former trustee John Ryan have all given evidence during the hearing, some of which has been contradictory.

Dr Ryan, an Aspley GP who it emerged on Friday had become Cr Sutherland's personal physician after the mayor contracted a serious auto-immune disease, told the commission on Thursday he had no memory whatsoever of being involved with the trust.

Cr Sutherland told the commission on Friday the subject of Dr Ryan's involvement in the trust come up in conversations during one of his medical consultations.

"It was during the election, that I had to hide from the public and the press because I didn't know what was going on, that I was in hospital," he said.

"I was in and out of his surgery three or four times a week at that stage and I subsequently collapsed after the election and I got to know him fairly well fairly quickly.

"We started to talk about the campaign ... and somewhere in and around that time he said he used to be involved in Moreton Futures Trust."

Cr Sutherland told the CCC a mayoral campaign in the amalgamated Moreton Bay Regional Council - which took in the former Redcliffe, Pine Rivers and Caboolture councils - cost up to $200,000.

"I would hate to see donations banned if there was no alternative, because I dread the day that political parties take over local government," he said.

"I think it's maybe on the horizon, when I see the political activity in local authorities, particularly in the south-east at the moment."

Cr Sutherland described raising campaign money as the worst part of any mayor's or councillor's job.

"It's very hard raising funds when you don't have a political party behind you or a union behind you," he said.

"It's not a nice feeling, as a mayor, to ask people for money so I prefer not to do that.

"I don't like going near that and you've got members of the (campaign) committee who are well connected with the business community and different elements of the community and you set a figure in the first place of what we think we'll need for the campaign and they actively try to engage in raising such monies."

Cr Sutherland, who has denied any wrongdoing, said developers did not necessarily donate to candidates to curry favour.

Instead, Cr Sutherland said, they donate to candidates who would lead a council that would provide the kind of economic stimulus that leads to increased development.

The hearing continues next Wednesday, when attention will turn to the Gold Coast City Council, with mayor Tom Tate due to make an appearance.

This story Mayor says he's done with fundraising trust after CCC probe first appeared on Brisbane Times.