25 March 2024

'I miss you, I love you, I can’t wait to talk to you': Report tabled on WA corruption officer's 'intimate relationship' with source

| James Day
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WA Corruption and Crime Commissioner John McKechnie KC, Dr Steve Thomas MLC, Matthew Hughes MLA, Mia Davies MLA and WACCC chief executive Emma Johnson. Photo: WACCC/LinkedIn.

A report tabled in Western Australia’s parliament says the behaviour of a former officer in the state’s Corruption and Crime Commission was “extremely serious, potentially dangerous, and involved a gross breach of trust”.

Parliamentary Inspector Matthew Zilko SC discovered the evidence on behalf of the Joint Standing Committee that oversees the commission that employed the now-dismissed individual referred to as ”LC”.

His report states that between early 2020 and 2023, the officer was found to have used her position as Human Source Coordinator for an extensive and intimate relationship with one of the commission’s human sources (”X”).

Mr Zilko also said there was no prior assessment of whether LC was an appropriate handler for X.

“Had this occurred, it might have been discovered that LC was experiencing significant marital difficulties … and was ”lonely”, both personally and in her leadership of a Human Source Team she later described as ”fractured”,” he states in the report.

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Committee chair Matthew Hughes MLA said the officer abused her position as Human Source Coordinator and manager of the Human Source Team, along with the extraordinary powers given to the commission for its work.

“The public has the right to expect the highest standards from officers in powerful positions,” said Mr Hughes.

“The officer deceived the commission, exposed others to potential harm by revealing official information obtained through her work, and neglected to responsibly perform her job.”

LC initially informed X she was a divorced woman, and their level of contact was considered to be ”extreme”.

From October 2018 to March 2023, their relationship accumulated a total of 1905 audio messages and 7413 phone calls. While the officer was required to record all telephone conversations, only 30 per cent of her interactions with the human source were captured between 3 January, 2019, and 13 March, 2023.

In pursuing the relationship, the officer apparently took multiple steps to deceive the commission, including adopting a pseudonym.

By early 2021, the officer is said to have accepted that it had evolved into an ”intimate relationship”. A sexually explicit message from the human source at the time illustrates this, ending with “I miss you, I love you, I can’t wait to talk to you”.

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The report also describes how on one occasion, LC gave X the name and location of a person who was believed to have made an anonymous report of corruption. This was in spite of the complainant having stressed their desire for anonymity, as their submission had been made ”at great risk” to themselves.

She had discovered the presumed identity of the anonymous person after her request for information to the department was accepted. Mr Hughes said this and other incidents proved how the state’s peak integrity agency had failed in its responsibility to set an example of integrity.

“While it could be said that the officer did ‘go rogue’, and her line manager’s supervision was inadequate, the investigation exposes serious weaknesses in how the commission managed its misconduct risks and Human Source Team, and raises questions regarding the effectiveness of that team.”

A committee report tabled in November, examining responses to a finding of serious misconduct, stated that public agencies such as the commission should be accountable and transparent in how they respond to misconduct events.

The commission has initiated an independent review and “unreservedly” accepted that system failure contributed to the climate in which the incident was possible.

By 30 September it is expected to provide the committee with its report, an action plan, and measures taken to minimise the risk of misconduct. Along with this, the committee recommends that:

  • The Western Australia Police Force consider whether to prosecute the former officer
  • The Attorney-General examine whether there is a need to provide the Parliamentary Inspector with more resources or legal or other options to deal with misconduct on the part of the commission or its officers, particularly sensitive and resource-intensive matters
  • The commission consider the work of its Human Source Team, and whether this service adds value to the commission’s investigative work, and whether the team should be retained or this service delivered in another way.

“The officer’s personal circumstances, emotional involvement and ”strong feelings” for the human source do not excuse her conduct,” states the committee. “Her conduct exposed others to a real possibility of harm.

“In the committee’s view, it is only fortunate that her actions ‘did not lead to lasting harm’.”

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