Lawyer in Pisasale case involved in charity squabble

EXCLUSIVE

THE lawyer at the centre of former mayor Paul Pisasale's ongoing extortion court case has become involved in a squabble over an Ipswich charity.

Property lawyer Cameron McKenzie, and his associated solicitor, are fighting founders of registered charity iCAN Ipswich Community Alliance Network inc.

They have threatened defamation proceedings and have lodged a Supreme Court application.

iCAN Ipswich has lodged an application in the Supreme Court against two of its founding members; two-time mayoral candidate Gary Duffy and his wife Conny Turni.

The Supreme Court application seeks to have Mr Duffy and Ms Turni legally forced out of the charity. Both have already had their membership cancelled.

The fledgling charity is led by businessman and former Ipswich council candidate Mike McInnes who has engaged Mr McKenzie as legal representation.

Mr McKenzie - who is facing an extortion charge in relation to former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale's extortion case - sent a legal letter dated January 21, 2019 to Mr Duffy threatening defamation proceedings over a critical Facebook post relating to the charity's now executive and its actions.

 

Conny Turni and Gary Duffy at the Goodna Jacaranda Festival. (Pic: FILE)
Conny Turni and Gary Duffy at the Goodna Jacaranda Festival. (Pic: FILE) Rob Williams

Now the matter is before the court.

According to the documents lodged in the Supreme Court on February 8, Mr Duffy and Ms Turni's "unreasonable and improper conduct" lead to the application to force them out of the organisation.

Mr Duffy and Ms Turni refute that claim.

The documents filed in the Supreme Court seek to have Mr Duffy and his wife Conny Turni banned from entering a community garden on Keogh St, West Ipswich; demands that they hand over charity 'property' including email addresses and online login details, that they cease publishing or producing any material related to the charity and "cease and desist from holding themselves out as members, founders or associates" of the charity.

It also seeks to have the pair restrained from contacting any members of the charity, its donors and suppliers.

Mr Duffy and wife Ms Turni are fighting the Supreme Court action against them.

The charity's founders were Mr Duffy, Ms Turni, along with Rochelle Caloon, Mike McInnes and former candidate for the federal seat of Blair John 'Sandy' Turner.

Ms Caloon is no longer associated with the charity.

Mr Turner remains involved and expressed distress the charity might suffer due to the disagreement between founding members.

In documents submitted in response to the Supreme Court action, Mr Duffy alleges meetings were conducted without proper notification to members, that meeting minutes were recorded inaccurately, and that his expulsion from the organisation was not valid.

Within that response, Mr Duffy accuses Mr McInnes of using the charity for political gain by displaying the iCAN logo on a social media profile created for his council election campaign.

The documents submitted by Mr Duffy also detail a meeting of the organisation held on February 9 in which members agreed to remove Mr McInnes, and the remaining committee from their positions.

Before the Supreme Court action Mr Duffy and Ms Turni say they had lodged complaints with the sector watchdog, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, about the conduct of some committee members.

The watchdog would not confirm or deny whether it was investigating but said it would take action where evidence of misconduct was found.

"The ACNC is unable to comment on specific charities' circumstances due to the secrecy provisions in our legislation," the spokesperson said.

"The ACNC takes all concerns seriously, and where there is evidence of misconduct, we will investigate.

"In instances where the ACNC finds deliberate breaches of the ACNC Act or Governance Standards, we will take action."

The claims made by iCAN against Mr Duffy and Ms Turni in the Supreme Court were heard for the first time on Monday.

The judge reserved the decision to consider the material submitted.

 

Who is Cameron McKenzie?

CAMERON McKenzie is an Ipswich property lawyer who has in the past been open about plans to run for a position on Ipswich City Council.

Mr McKenzie is facing an extortion charge stemming from a corruption investigation into Ipswich City Council.

He was charged by the CCC with one count of extortion in relation to former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale's extortion case.

Mr McKenzie's case is awaiting a pre-trial hearing set down for March 27 in the Brisbane District Court.

Both men have denied wrong doing.

When asked why he engaged property lawyer Mr McKenzie for assistance, Mr McInnes said he had known Mr McKenzie long-term and the firm offered to do the work "pro-bono".

 

Lawyer Cameron McKenzie (Pic: FILE)
Lawyer Cameron McKenzie (Pic: FILE) Rob Williams

 

iCAN: A brief history

iCAN Ipswich began days after the Ipswich City Council by-election to replace then Division-7 councillor Andrew Antoniolli.

At first, the group was largely made up of unsuccessful political candidates and their associates.

The first documents lodged in 2017 name the directors and management committee.

According to the ACNC website, iCAN was registered as a charity in March 2018, with a mission statement to "advance public and social welfare".

At the first general meeting in October 2018 there were 14 people, minutes show, and the charity had raised $2157.56.

Since the charity has participated in minor community events such as Mother's Day celebrations - delivering gifts to women in nursing homes - and the Jacaranda Festival.

In the past months, a community garden has also been established at Koegh St, West Ipswich.

Initially Rochelle Caloon, a local small business owner and candidate at the Division 7 by-election, was president.

Meeting minutes show Ms Caloon did not contest the position at an AGM in October 2018 and was replaced by Mike McInnes.

Mr McInnes is the franchisee of financial advisory firm Yellow Brick Road Ipswich and ran in the same 2018 Division 7 by-election against Rochelle Caloon.

Neither were successful.

Mike McInnes said he had no plans to run for a council position again.

Mr Duffy plans for run for mayor again.

The next council elections are due to be held in 2020.



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