Former lord mayor Robert Doyle and wife Emma Page-Campbell. Picture: Nicole Garmston
Former lord mayor Robert Doyle and wife Emma Page-Campbell. Picture: Nicole Garmston

Doyle’s secret thigh touch explained

FORMER Melbourne City Council lord mayor Robert Doyle says he put his hand on a colleague's thigh as a way of discreetly signalling her during a work dinner.

Mr Doyle told investigators looking into allegations he sexually harassed colleagues that he grabbed the thigh of current City of Melbourne councillor Cathy Oke at a dinner in 2014 when the pair were interviewing candidates for the role of council chief executive.

According to The Australian, Mr Doyle told the investigation the under-the-table thigh touching was meant to indicate to his colleague which candidates he preferred for the job.

But Ms Oke told the investigation she moved away from the lord mayor and insisted the alleged touching was unwanted and ongoing.

Ms Oke did not respond to news.com.au when approached for comment on the matter.

Mr Doyle has vigorously denied the allegations against him.

Melbourne City councillor Cathy Oke claims she was touched inappropriately at a dinner with the former lord mayor. Picture: Jay Town
Melbourne City councillor Cathy Oke claims she was touched inappropriately at a dinner with the former lord mayor. Picture: Jay Town

The information comes ahead of a council meeting on Tuesday night where the investigation into Mr Doyle's conduct, led by Ian Freckelton QC, is expected to be discussed.

Mr Doyle quit his role as lord mayor on Sunday and is believed to have been admitted to hospital suffering ill health. My Doyle's wife Emma Page-Campbell says the allegations against her husband have had a significant impact on his health.

"None of the allegations against him accord with the man I know," she said.

"I have watched one of the strongest men I know brought to the brink of being broken."

Mr Doyle's resignation comes seven weeks after sexual harassment allegations surfaced.

His former colleague, Tessa Sullivan, accused him of sexual harassment and indecent assault. She quit her role with the City of Melbourne in December and lodged a complaint against Mr Doyle claiming he once grabbed her breast and often made lewd comments.

Former Melbourne City Council employee Tessa Sullivan made formal complaints against Robert Doyle, which he strenuously denied. : City of Melbourne
Former Melbourne City Council employee Tessa Sullivan made formal complaints against Robert Doyle, which he strenuously denied. : City of Melbourne

Ms Oke followed with claims in January that Mr Doyle allegedly tried to kiss her while the pair were in his office.

After announcing he would stand aside as mayor until the investigation concluded, Mr Doyle described the claims as "abhorrent".

"(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.

In a statement following his resignation on Sunday, Mr Doyle's lawyer Nick Ruskin said the former lord mayor had been denied the presumption of innocence.

"Following allegations seven weeks ago, he has been through a period which he feels has lacked a semblance of natural justice, where the burden of proof does not rest with proving guilt, but rather proving innocence," Mr Ruskin said.

"He continues to strenuously deny the allegations made against him."


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