An independent inquiry will be set up to look into the ACT Greens’ handling of sexual misconduct allegations against former MLA Johnathan Davis.
However, there’s no timeline or clear idea of what form this will take.
Acting Chief Minister Yvette Berry said both ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury and Canberra Liberals leader Elizabeth Lee had agreed an independent inquiry needed to take place.
“We have a member of the Legislative Assembly who has resigned and whose behaviour has been reported to police,” she said.
“We need to understand what happened with regards to how this situation occurred in the first place, how it was managed by the Greens political party, the processes they have put in place, and what the government can do better in the future.”
It would look at codes of conduct and acts, reporting responsibilities, activities of MLAs and what enabled the situation to occur in the first place.
“It is my intention to do as much as we can to prevent an issue like this from ever happening again, and should it occur again, that we have everything in place and perfectly aligned to ensure this does not happen,” Ms Berry said.
The matter has already been referred to the ACT Integrity Commission for consideration, while Speaker Joy Burch is also looking into whether the Standards Commission should investigate it.
Mr Rattenbury said while he thought the party had been open and transparent, he acknowledged that more could be learned for the future.
“We welcome an independent inquiry or review that will help organisations learn how best to deal with these matters. We would also like to contribute our learnings to make the process of dealing with serious issues better,” he said.
Ms Berry questioned why the allegations weren’t at least reported to the Chief Minister’s office when the Greens party launched its internal investigation.
It’s a move that she said showed “disrespect” to the head of government.
“The fact that the Greens political party did not inform the Chief Minister of this government of the serious nature of this issue is of concern, and that is the main concern that I have around this process,” Ms Berry said.
“It sounds like, from what I’m reading, there’s been missed opportunities about getting appropriate advice in how to respond to this, and also … that this was kept within the Greens political party to do an internal investigation.
“That’s when it was serious enough, in my view, to tell the Chief Minister – perhaps it should have happened earlier and that’s what I hope an independent investigation will uncover.”
It’s also been revealed Mr Rattenbury’s office sought legal advice from the Chief Minister’s directorate before the Chief Minister or Acting Chief Minister’s office was informed.
“I would have thought that there was enough trust and a professional relationship between [us]. I think there is, and I’m disappointed that it didn’t occur, that Minister Rattenbury didn’t think he could reach out to the Chief Minister and explain the situation,” Ms Berry said.
It’s hoped an inquiry will commence before the end of the year.
The findings are expected to be made public.
Tensions remain high, with all sides of politics distressed by the allegations against Mr Davis and how they have been communicated.
Ms Berry stood by her comments that Labor felt they weren’t being communicated with appropriately and still had questions that needed answers.
Yesterday, Mr Rattenbury said he was “dismayed” by comments from Acting Chief Minister Yvette Berry, calling them “highly inappropriate”.
She attributed Mr Rattenbury’s comment questioning the “Labor Party’s integrity on this matter” to “stress” and said the government could continue working together.
“I think our relationship will be bruised as a result of this, and so we need to work through that,” Ms Berry said.
“We’re grown-ups. I think we can work through that.”
The Canberra Liberals, as well as some Labor backbenchers, used the annual report hearings this week to further press both Mr Rattenbury and Mental Health Minister Emma Davidson over the timeline and handling of the sexual misconduct allegations against Mr Davis.
Ms Davidson was questioned about her decision to not report the “rumours” she had heard about Mr Davis to her party leader sooner, with Ms Lee asking why it was instead taken to the most senior manager in the organisation.
“A chief of staff is not the manager of Mr Davis, am I wrong?” Ms Lee asked.
Ms Davidson responded that MLAs were elected by the people and “were responsible to them”.
When further pushed about why she didn’t at least immediately take it to Mr Rattenbury, Ms Davidson said senior managers would have a better understanding of processes to follow when there’s a misconduct allegation.
“My role at that point in time … was to support that staff member in providing that information to the most senior manager in the organisation,” she said.
Ms Lee also asked Ms Davidson why she didn’t take the matter to police under mandatory reporting obligations, given she had heard rumours Mr Davis had been involved with young people between the ages of 15 and 17.
“I actually didn’t have any details that confirmed any of the information or identified anyone,” she said.
“[All I had were] rumours about engaging in inappropriate behaviour and possible ages.”
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