Electoral commissioner ‘drunk at work’, seen in ‘compromising sexual position’

Queensland's former electoral commissioner, Walter van der Merwe, was drunk in the workplace, absent without reasonable excuse, and seen in a compromising position "of a sexual nature" with an employee, an investigation has found.

Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath tabled a summary in Queensland Parliament of the Crime and Corruption Commission's (CCC) findings into Mr van der Merwe's time as commissioner.

The ECQ's website said the role of the commissioner is to work with an executive leadership team "focused on delivering electoral services that are innovative, respected and trusted by the Queensland community".

Mr van der Merwe stepped down in February, two days after being stood aside when complaints were raised with the Attorney-General's office.

The summary found five of the seven allegations against him were substantiated, including an incident where he was seen in a compromising position of a sexual nature with a staff member.

It also found he was intoxicated in the workplace and often absent without reasonable excuse.

The report said he also showed favouritism, directed senior managers not to regulate the behaviour of employees who were considered to be his friends and overruled senior managers in relation to other staff members.

"Van der Merwe routinely did not perform his functions as electoral commissioner when in the workplace," the summary by CCC chairman Alan MacSporran said.

"An example given related to an incident where he was allegedly seen in a compromising position with a temporary employee — it is believed the conduct was of a sexual nature."

Ms D'Ath told Parliament it has been a difficult time for the Electoral Commission Queensland (ECQ).

"Those circumstances are by no means a reflection of ECQ staff more broadly," she said.

"As a public sector agency, it is crucial that the ECQ always retains the full confidence of the Queensland public and that it reflects the highest levels of ethics and integrity in the important work that it does.

"Staff should also expect a healthy workplace culture that supports staff wellbeing."

Ms D'Ath told Parliament she was seeking to appoint a new acting electoral commissioner "to provide fresh eyes and stability for the organisation while the position is being filled permanently".

Deputy commissioner Dermott Tiernan has been filling in the position since Mr van der Merwe's departure.

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