The fraud charges against eight former Logan City Councillors were dropped at a committal hearing at the Brisbane Magistrates Court this morning.
Magistrate Steve Courtney was confident “the proper decision” had been made due to a lack of evidence warranting a full criminal trial.
“The prosecution’s decision to drop the charges is a proper decision,” he told the court.
In 2019, the Crime and Corruption Commission arrested seven former councillors and mayor Luke Smith with fraud relating to the sacking of council CEO Sharon Kelsey.
Former councillors Russell Lutton, Cherie Dalley, Phil Pidgeon, Steve Swenson, Laurie Smith, Trevina Schwarz, Jennie Breene, and former Mayor Luke Smith faced the charges.
Former mayor Luke Smith still faces two charges of misconduct relating to his time in public office.
The councillors, who were prevented from talking about the matter until today, spoke of the mixed bag of relief and pain the decision had brought on them.
“This has been a very, very harrowing experience, it’s been extremely soul destroying,” said former Division 9 councillor and Park Ridge resident Phil Pidgeon.
“I’m an innocent man, I’ve never done anything wrong, as evidenced in the court today.”
Phil also expressed the huge impact of the ordeal on his family.
“It’s taken a huge toll on our relationship and our family, more than what people can know,” he said.
A teary Robyn Pidgeon left the courtroom alongside her husband, Phil, feeling overwhelmed yet relieved.
“It’s just that they’re able to breathe and be confident that they are normal people, we’re not what people say we were,” she said.
“My kids were told their dad’s a criminal and he’s not.”
Phil did not rule out the possibilities of further legal action and running for council again.
“All options are on the table, I’ll be considering the options, I’ve been encouraged by a number of people now to maybe throw my hat in the ring for Mayor, to stand for mayor, and to clean this city up,” he said.
“Now that I’ve been vindicated, I’ll be looking at all options.”
Get an overview of the background to this story in our EXPLAINER