Lord Mayor accused of groping female councillor
Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has been accused of groping a young councillor and touching the thigh of another woman, forcing him to stand down from his duties for a month.
The vow to clear his name over allegations of sexual harassment and indecent assault comes after City of Melbourne councillor Tessa Sullivan quit on Friday over the claims.
The Herald Sun reports that Ms Sullivan alleged Mr Doyle, 64, would hug and kiss her inappropriately, and that he once grabbed her breast as he exited his mayoral car after he had given her a lift following post council-meeting drinks.
It is believed she also told council bosses Mr Doyle had told her “I love cunnilingus”, as they entered a lift to leave Town Hall.
Council sources said Ms Sullivan, who was on Team Doyle, also mentioned an incident in which Mr Doyle allegedly touched the thigh of another woman during a meeting in 2014.
City of Melbourne chief executive Ben Rimmer says he became aware of the allegations on Friday and has ordered an external investigation to be headed by top lawyer Ian Freckleton QC.
“I was made aware of serious allegations, including sexual harassment, indecent assault and misconduct, against the Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle AC,” Mr Rimmer said in a statement.
“I have today informed the Lord Mayor that these allegations have been made.
“Considering my obligations to ensure a safe workplace, I have commissioned an independent external investigation of these matters by Ian Freckleton QC.”
On Saturday, the council issued a statement saying Ms Sullivan had resigned “after herself and other women had experienced repeated sexual harassment which had made their workplace intolerable”.
Mr Doyle said he was shocked by the allegations and frustrated he had not been officially informed of the specific details before being contacted by the media.
“This is an incredibly distressing time for me and my family,” he said.
“(I) find the allegations detailed to me by media outlets thoroughly abhorrent, not only as Lord Mayor but as a father of young women, a husband, a brother and as the head of an office made up entirely of women.”
He said his decision to take leave “must not be interpreted as any concession or admission”.
“I welcome the investigation and will co-operate fully to clear my name.”
Mr Doyle first entered politics in 1992, when he was elected as the Member for Malvern in the Victorian Legislative Assembly.
He went on to become Leader of the Opposition in Victoria and led the Liberal Party to their worst ever defeat, in the state’s 2002 election.
After leaving state politics in 2006, he was appointed the chairman of Melbourne Health, which operates Royal Melbourne Hospital.
He then successfully ran for Lord Mayor, assuming office in 2008. He is Melbourne’s longest serving lord mayor.
Ms Sullivan, a lawyer who is married with three young children, was elected to council in November 2016.
Her council portfolios had included disability, homelessness, city safety, affordable housing and aged care.
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2017