CONSPIRACIES and secret meetings.
This was the life of member for Benambra Bill Tilley as he became embroiled in the downfall of police commissioner Simon Overland.
An OPI report released yesterday shows that just months after being elected to government and taking on the role of second-in-charge to the police portfolio, Mr Tilley also took a hands-on approach to what he saw as Victoria Police’s waning reputation.
OPI director Michael Strong said Mr Tilley, a former traffic officer, found an ally in new police adviser and still detective Tristan Weston.
The pair would talk on the phone several times a day, the Police Minister Peter Ryan’s staffer admitting he spoke to Mr Tilley more than Mr Ryan
In their words they would “vent a lot”.
According to Mr Weston’s evidence to the OPI, Mr Tilley believed Victoria Police had lost its way and that the malaise began with the appointment of Christine Nixon.
But it was their role in the Sir Ken Jones affair that is most at question.
In the wake of the deputy commissioner’s resignation and the obvious tensions between he and Mr Overland, Mr Tilley and Mr Weston moved in.
There were meetings at Sir Ken’s home, then at the Shrine of Remembrance.
They wanted him to withdraw his resignation.
For Sir Ken’s part he says he believed he was talking to the government, that Mr Tilley and Mr Weston were reaching out to him.
But as the OPI report shows, those meetings may or may not have made it up the food chain of government.
Mr Tilley says he told Mr Ryan of one meeting but clearly not all.
Mr Ryan yesterday denied any knowledge.
In his evidence, Mr Tilley emphasised it was not his intention that Mr Overland’s contract be terminated and Sir Ken installed in his place.
But Mr Ryan again has a different recollection.
The OPI report says Mr Ryan said Mr Tilley had at some stage expressed concerns about Mr Overland’s performance “and had indicated to me that he’d prefer Sir Ken Jones to be doing it”.
Mr Weston is now facing the possibility of criminal charges over a series of leaks to the Herald Sun allegedly aimed at damaging Mr Overland’s reputation.
But Mr Tilley too has been a favourite of the Melbourne daily.
Last month he came under fire from Fairfax papers, accused of leaking an email between Sir Ken and his wife to the Herald Sun.
On the June long weekend Mr Tilley was also front page news in the Melbourne daily when its Sunday edition broke the news that he could leave the Liberal party over the handling of the Sir Ken Jones affair — leaving a hung parliament.