ICAC lawyer not amused by Ficarra’s tale of miniature schnauzer Leisel

Best friends: Maria Ficarra with her schnauzer Liesel. Picture: John Veage
Best friends: Maria Ficarra with her schnauzer Liesel. Picture: John Veage

This is upper house MP Marie Ficarra with her miniature schnauzer Leisel, who has ‘‘starred’’ this week at the corruption inquiry hearings.

Leader chief photographer John Veage took the picture at Ms Ficarra’s Cronulla home in 2007 after she returned to State Parliament following an earlier stint representing Georges River in the Legislative Assembly.

Ms Ficarra told the Independent Commission Against Corruption that her forgetfulness about her dog being seriously ill and requiring a vet to do a full 20 blood count, was the reason she inadvertently misled the inquiry.

The commission probed her movements on a day shortly before the 2011 election when she met developer Tony Merhi at a West Pennant Hills cafe.

It has been alleged at that meeting that Ms Ficarra solicited an illegal $5000 donation to the Liberal Party ‘‘slush fund’’ — Eightbyfive — run out of the office of former Energy Minister Chris Hartcher.

At an in-camera hearing last year, Mr Ficarra said she chose the cafe for the meeting because it was on the way to western Sydney where she was to electioneer.

She also had wanted to buy plants at the nursery attached to the cafe.

However, in evidence yesterday, Ms Ficarra said she had forgotten that she had not been able to electioneer after the meeting because she had to return to Sylvania to pick up her dog from the vet.

She had only remembered when she looked at her diary that she had dropped the dog off in the morning and needed to pick it up later.

‘‘We have a receipt of the full blood 20 count,’’ she said.

‘‘She had been very ill; she had almost died and been hospitalised and under veterinary care for two months.’’

Counsel assisting the commission, Geoffrey Watson SC, put it to Ms Ficarra that she was reconstructing her movements on the day to fit a record from mobile phone calls, since tendered to the inquiry.

Those records showed that, after the meeting with Mr Merhi, she returned home immediately, he said.

Ms Ficarra insisted her dog was the reason for her quick return.

Her statement, “It’s not easy to take blood from a miniature schnauzer,” caused laughter at the hearing.

However, this and other mentions of her dog caused Mr Watson to comment, ‘‘It’s not amusing or comical at all’’.

At one point, he snapped, “Please don’t mention the dog again.”