The lord mayor of Melbourne city council and former Victorian opposition leader Robert Doyle is facing new sexual harassment allegations, this time related to his role as the chairman of Melbourne Health. He has denied these further allegations.
Doyle is under investigation by Melbourne city council after the lawyer and former councillor Tessa Sullivan alleged in December that he had grabbed her breast and made explicit comments about oral sex to her.
He denied the allegations and said his decision to take leave should not be interpreted as any concession or admission. Another Melbourne city councillor, Cathy Oke, told council investigators that Doyle had once tried to kiss her and, on another occasion, clutched her thigh under a table, allegations Doyle said through a spokeswoman he “categorically denied”.
On Wednesday the Royal Melbourne hospital confirmed it was supporting the family of a staff member since becoming aware of an incident that took place at a 2016 Melbourne Health function which it is alleged Doyle was involved in.
“It is inappropriate to provide further comment while Dr Ian Freckelton QC conducts an independent investigation on behalf of the City of Melbourne,” a hospital spokeswoman said. “Robert Doyle has taken leave from his role at Melbourne Health.”
Fairfax Media reported that Doyle allegedly sexually harassed the a woman at the Melbourne Health medical awards ceremony, touching her on her upper thigh repeatedly under a table and making inappropriate remarks in June 2016.
Doyle told Guardian Australia: “As I have said previously, I strongly deny the suggestion that I behaved in an inappropriate manner. As these matters are being addressed within the confines of the investigation, it is not something on which I will comment further.”
The hospital spokeswoman said Melbourne Health stood firmly against sexual harassment, assault and discrimination.
“Our community is, rightly, more and more empowered to stand up and call out incidents of sexual harassment both in the workplace and more widely,” she said. “Melbourne Health extends its full support to anybody affected or impacted by harassment in its workplace or associated with the organisation.”
The allegation will be considered as part of the investigation being led by Freckleton on behalf of Melbourne city council, which is expected to conclude by the end of January.