By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Friends of the late Casey councillor Amanda Stapledon say she had been “deeply upset” by an IBAC investigation into alleged corruption by Casey councillors.
With IBAC expected to finalise its report soon, Ms Stapledon’s close friend Kerril Burns said the protracted two-year ordeal had a deep impact.
“The treatment of all people involved in all IBAC investigations needs to be thoroughly investigated.
“This has dragged on for so long and it has to affect a person’s mind.
“People who are not criminals should not be treated as such.”
As a councillor, Ms Stapledon was interested in “every resident’s problems”, Ms Burns said.
“When I first met Amanda I received the same cheerful smile to which all who know her are accustomed.
“My memories of Amanda will always be of the wonderful caring person who loved her father, mother and son so much.
“She loved Casey and Cranbourne in particular so much, and relished her time representing the residents of Casey.
“She will be sorely missed by so many of us.”
Former Casey councillor Colin Butler said Ms Stapledon’s passing was an “absolute tragedy”.
“She was fine until (IBAC) hit and she went downhill from there. We tried and tried and tried but in the end it got her.
“I didn’t think she’d take it to heart that badly. It didn’t matter how many times we said you did nothing wrong.
“We’ve lost such an important person in the community.
“I think she’s the most selfless person I’ve met. It wasn’t about her but about everyone else.”
She’d help anyone regardless of politics or religious affiliation, he said.
“She found time for everybody. I don’t know how – she said she just liked to keep going and going all the time.
“I don’t think I’ve come across a more community-minded person-councillor-mayor in my life. She was way in front of everyone else.“
At the IBAC Operation Sandon inquiry in 2020, Ms Stapledon conceded that she’d failed to properly declare a conflict of interest at council – namely a $25,000 state election donation from property developer John Woodman who had a stake in rezoning industrial land in Cranbourne West.
After the 2016 council election, Ms Stapledon also omitted declaring being part of Mr Woodman’s $100,000 campaign for a group of “like-minded” candidates.
She had said she was uncertain whether Mr Woodman had funded the campaign.
She also met with Mr Woodman shortly before being elected as mayor in 2018.
“Mr Woodman has never asked me to do anything for him,” Ms Stapledon told the inquiry.
“I need to be very clear there: he has done nothing improper in that regard.”
Close friend Rob Ward said Ms Stapledon may have been too naive and trusting of others. There was “not an ounce of malfeasance“ in her, he said.
“She was an outstanding human being who will be greatly missed not just for what she did but for who she was.
“A kinder, more generous, gentler person you could not find. Her dedication to her son for more than 20 years is legendary.
“The pressure that IBAC brought to bear was intolerable. There are people who do the wrong thing that have no conscience but she was so tender that the thought of making a mistake was too much to bear.“
Former councillor Wayne Smith said Ms Stapledon was a “genuinely good representative who cared for her community”.
“Her community was number one. That was shown in the fact she supported so many organisations.
“It has come as a shock.
“Last time I spoke to her was before last Christmas, she seemed OK. I’m disappointed she didn’t feel she could reach out.”
Kay Morland, wife of late Casey mayor Mick Morland, said it was “impossible to recognise all that Amanda was to her family, her friends and this community”.
She touched thousands with her tireless support for many community groups within and outside Casey.
“She was the most community minded and caring human being I ever met,” Mrs Morland said.
“Amanda always saw the best in everyone and was more than generous in her praise, support and encouragement to all.
“We shared an ongoing joke about wearing the right shoes for the occasion and many times she would glance my way during a function, wink and hold out her foot for approval.
“The world is a lesser place now she’s not here. RIP gorgeous girl. I hope you know how loved you were.”
Former councillor Damien Rosario said Ms Stapledon was “truly the best of us”.
“She truly did care about the community and worked very hard to improve things for the lives of her residents.
“Even after council, she was volunteering with groups and guiding them – it was a testament to who she was.”
Ms Stapledon was the driver of the inclusive playground Livvi’s Place in Lyndhurst, Mr Rosario said.
“Her name should have been on that plaque (at the playground).”
In a statement, City of Casey stated Ms Stapledon focussed on improving access and inclusion for all.
“As a sole carer of an adult child with a disability, she understood the pressure on families, carers, and our older persons.
“Many would describe Amanda as someone who had dedicated her life, aside from her family, to helping others.”
She also advocated for tourism, roads and key infrastructure as well as waste management and longer-term sustainability.
“She is no doubt missed and mourned by many.
“Rest in peace, Amanda Stapledon.”
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