By Daniel Bateman, of the Cairns Post, and Sandra Conchie
A Tauranga lawyer who police said left the country six years ago rather than front up to a court to face drink-driving related charges has surfaced in North Queensland.
Cassowary Coast Regional Council has confirmed that its co-ordinator of corporate governance, Michaela Johnstone, is also a former solicitor known as Michaela Milner, who was due to face drink driving charges in Tauranga six years ago.
In 2013, it was reported that Milner, 32, was wanted by police after she allegedly failed to answer a summons to appear in the Tauranga Registrar's Court to face charges of dangerous driving, refusing to allow a blood specimen to be taken, and driving under the influence of alcohol so as to be incapable of having proper control of a motor vehicle.
Milner was also charged with driving while suspended after she was allegedly caught driving again the day after her licence was revoked for 28 days, due to the first set of alleged offences.
A warrant for Milner's arrest for failing to turn up to court was issued and Tauranga police later confirmed that she had left the country bound for Australia on July 5, 2013.
At the time, a red flag was placed on her Immigration New Zealand record, meaning Milner could be arrested on her return to New Zealand.
A NZ Police spokeswoman could not confirm whether a warrant was still outstanding for Milner's arrest, nor what would happen if she tried to re-enter the country.
However, a Tauranga District Court spokeswoman yesterday confirmed that the warrant for Milner's arrest remained active.
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Milner had been employed at Tauranga law firm Lyon, O'Neal, Arnold before leaving New Zealand.
A director at the firm told the Bay of Plenty Times at the time her actions were "out of character" and her resignation had come as a surprise.
She was described as a "good lawyer" and a "competent lawyer".
Since Milner left New Zealand, it is understood she had been living and working in the Northern Territory before she gained employment at Cassowary Coast Regional Council in Innisfail in far north Queensland earlier this year.
A council spokesman said the council was aware of the allegations made against Johnstone, which recently surfaced on social media and in another Australian newspaper.
"The known offences at the time of her employment were ultimately traffic offences from some years ago," he said.
"They didn't affect or relate to her ability to do her job."
The spokesman said the council had conducted a national police history check at the time of Johnstone's employment.
"The council employee was upfront in providing information about those matters at the time of her recruitment," he said.
"The matters were not relevant to the requirements of the job, and do not affect the employee's performance of the role.
"Further, employment reference checks were undertaken by the recruitment agency, which attested to the employee's capability and performance.
"She has proven to be very capable and effective at doing her job."
"She's a young mum working hard to support her kids, and she does a great job.
"People should be able to go to work without being subjected to unfair or unreasonable criticism of what they could or might have done better years ago in their personal lives."
Johnstone was approached for comment yesterday.
- Cairns Post