Ex-mayor in court for renting Airbnb accommodation to Tasmanian council workers

A court has heard a former Tasmanian mayor rent his accommodation short-term to two council workers because there was a lack of suitable accommodation on the state’s east coast.

Debbie Wisby faces two counts of misuse of information and abuse of power.

She pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Ms Wisby was mayor of Glamorgan Spring Bay Council on the east coast of Tasmania for around two and a half years, before stepping down in July 2020.

Hobart Magistrates’ Court heard Ms Wisby rent her Airbnb accommodation in Triabunna to two of the council’s acting chief executives between May and August 2019 for a cost of $3,300, which the council paid.

The prosecution allege Ms Wisby was mayor and councilor during a period when Ian Pearce and Harry Galea were appointed as interim chief executives, and she was aware of reports they were in need of accommodation.

Prosecution lawyer Emily Bill alleged Ms Wisby used the information for her own benefit, in the form of income for her accommodation services.

Mr Pearce told the hearing that he had a discussion with Ms Wisby about the cost of her short-term accommodation and was told it was $600 a week, which he did not was unwilling to pay because he knew the council was in debt.

He said Ms Wisby gave a discount because she recognized that he, Mr Pearce, was there to help the council.

Glamorgan Spring Bay Mayor Debbie Wisby looks up.
Debbie Wisby, former mayor of Glamorgan Spring Bay.(ABC News: Adam Harding)

The defense argued that no financial benefit was obtained because Ms. Wisby rented her accommodation short-term for $300 a week when she usually charged $140 a night.

Mr Galea told the hearing he had a conversation with Ms Wisby before he started his job at Glamorgan Spring Bay Council and was told there were not many job options. accommodation available.

Mr Galea said he had not looked for other accommodation options as he only had a week and a half to find accommodation that suited his needs and thought the price of Ms Wisby’s place was reasonable.

Mr Pearce also told the court that his wife had looked for accommodation before moving into Ms Wisby’s Airbnb, but none met her requirements, including within walking distance of the council chamber.

He said he remembered some accommodation providers shutting down or being blocked during the winter months.

The case will return to court on June 29.

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