They travelled in style, hiring a private jet, staying at the finest of hotels, dining at expensive restaurants and missing official meetings.
The trip began with a two-night stay at the Emirates Palace Hotel for $10,600 where they caught an $8000 helicopter flight to the top of the 7-star Burj Al Arab resort in Dubai for a $575 afternoon tea.
Then it was off to London for three nights at the Savoy Hotel for $14,200, two nights in Paris at the Hotel Barriere Le Fouquet’s for $18,000 followed by three nights in Rome at the Hotel Hassler for $8700.
Traversing Europe was done in style with a private charter jet costing $27,600 for six days.
Official meetings were missed – including one with the head of utilities giant Veolia Group chairman Doug Dean. Veolia still has interests in Ipswich.
At the time scheduled for the Veolia meeting, some of the officials went on a day trip to the Villers-Bretonneux Australian War Museum and did sightseeing in central Paris.
A tour of the SCT Gasification waste to energy plant in Rome was also missed – for more sightseeing, guided tours of the Vatican and a visit to the Colosseum.
Towards the end of the trip, Pisasale and his travel companions went off the official itinerary altogether, flying to Sicily for a side trip.
In the province of Syracuse, Pisasale socialised with relatives and visited his family burial sites. One of the four caught a boat trip around the coastline, before they all met up for dinner at a local restaurant.
Once home, a 24-page pamphlet was produced containing their fresh ideas for the Ipswich redevelopment.
Pisasale’s only idea after visiting Paris was to copy the international icon of romance, the Pont des Arts bridge, proposing to turn the local Bradfield Bridge into a similar attraction.
“There is a bridge in Paris that had all these locks attached to it,” he wrote in the Ipswich City Properties brochure.
“We’ve got the Bradfield Bridge that we can make a tourist attraction.
“When people get married they can engrave names on the locks and lock it to the bridge.”
Nine News used Right to Information laws to access photographs, receipts and itineraries from the trip that had been kept secret by various government departments for the last 10 years.
The trove of papers include a five-page briefing note from the Crime and Corruption Commission to Ipswich City Council explaining how the 2012 tour cost taxpayers in excess of $170,000 – including more than $15,000 the four paid themselves in travel allowances.
“The evidence obtained during the investigation supports a finding that during the 14-day trip to the United Arab Emirates and Europe in September 2012, the subject officers engaged in a significant amount of non-official activity and also spent an excessive amount on accommodation, travel and other activities,” it states.
Details from the 2012 tour would ultimately form part of the evidence used by the Queensland Government to sack the council and appoint administrators in 2018, albeit with scant details for the public at the time.
In July 2018, then local government minister Stirling Hinchliffe made reference to overseas “jaunts” which entailed “chartered flights on private jets”, bolstering his case to dismiss the entire council.
But the full extent of these trips was never made public.
In the days before the council was dismissed by an act of Parliament, Tully told journalists he had never flown “around the world on private jets”, and slammed the minister for his unprecedented action.
Administrators brought in to run council would eventually find Ipswich City Properties – the entity driven by Pisasale, Tully and their two executives – had suffered net losses of $78 million, with a $25 million debt to council later written off in 2019.
The failed attempt to transform the heart of Ipswich into a new world city only resulted in the development of one building in the city mall.
Ten years after the study tour, Pisasale sits behind bars for dozens of unrelated offences: extorting the partner of a Brisbane escort, sexual assault of a woman in his mayoral chambers and corruption for accepting bribes in the form of promised cash and escort services.
Wulff also remains in jail after pleading guilty to separate and unrelated offences again, accepting bribes worth more than $240,000.
The separate investigation by the CCC resulted in 15 people being charged with 86 criminal offences, including seven council employees or councillors.
When approached by Nine News to discuss the details of the study tour, Tully suggested the helicopter ride from the Emirates Palace Hotel to the Burj Al Arab resort was “not a very easy thing to remember”.
“I don’t have these records so I’m not in a position to comment on any individual matters,” Tully said.
Tully was re-elected to council in 2020, and has now served for more than 40 years as an elected official.
Earlier this month he shocked some of his newly elected colleagues, including current mayor Teresa Harding, when he moved to reinstate Pisasale’s name on a bridge in Springfield and a road at Yamanto, after it was officially delisted last year.
The motion initially passed five votes to four, only to be revoked after one councillor had a change of heart.
Harding told Nine News the revelations of the excessive overseas spending would shock the Ipswich community.
“I think the community of Ipswich will have lots of questions,” she said.
“People work hard to pay their rates, fees and charges, those expenses are just out of the ballpark extravagant.
“To see that amount of money wasted on extravagant overseas travel, private jets, extravagant experiences, luxury accommodation is not fair, it’s unreasonable.
She said she was almost speechless after seeing the itemised list of expenses.
“I just shake my head,” she said.
“How do you do that to the people of Ipswich? It’s beyond belief.”