Fraser Coast Regional Council - Cr. Denis Chapman.
Fraser Coast Regional Council - Cr. Denis Chapman.

COUNCILLOR: My mate doesn’t belong in jail

FROM shock to sorrow and then concern, Fraser Coast councillor Denis Chapman felt a range of emotions when he heard former Fraser Coast mayor Chris Loft would serve six months in prison after he was this week found guilty in Hervey Bay District Court of misconduct in a public office.

A close friend of Mr Loft's, Cr Chapman yesterday shared his views on the imprisonment of the former mayor, who he said was just trying to do his best for the Fraser Coast community.

Mr Loft's charge related to trying to secure a senior council job for his friend and campaign manager Brian Downie.

"I'm in shock," Cr Chapman said.

"I can't believe something like this is worth a jail sentence."

He said he believed the case against Mr Loft had been politically motivated, adding that many failed to realise the toxic culture within the council at the time Mr Loft came to be mayor.

Cr Chapman said Mr Loft's actions were committed within the context of trying to combat that toxic culture.

He said before he was elected to his role, he had not known Mr Loft or the challenges the council was facing.

"I never believed it could be like the way it was," he said.

"Chris had four years (as a councillor) before I was there.

"He knew what was going on. I didn't."

After getting to know Mr Loft, Cr Chapman said he was impressed by how well-respected he was in the community.

"Once he got in and I got in, I realised what sort of person he was and I trusted Chris," he said.

Mr Chapman said he had taken the result of the court case "a bit hard".

"I feel sorry for his wife and his family," he said.

"It's not only Chris, it's his whole family.

"He took on the job to be mayor to do the best he could.

"Some people might not have liked the way Chris did things, but he tried to do the best by his community."

During sentencing, Judge Gary Long said Mr Loft had used his position as mayor to benefit Mr Downie, which he described as a "gross error of judgment".

"In my view there was a degree of persistence from August 2016 to February 2017.

"You acted with intent to get Mr Downie in this position and doing this was an abuse of your office."