Kathleen Florian Independent Assessor. Pic Peter Wallis
Kathleen Florian Independent Assessor. Pic Peter Wallis

Revealed: Dozens of official complaints against CQ councils

COUNCILS across Central Queensland had 45 official complaints made in the past financial year, the Office of the Independent Assessor has revealed.

The complaints, the OIA said, covered Gladstone Regional Council, Rockhampton Regional Council, Livingstone Shire Council, Banana Shire Council, Central Highlands Regional Council and Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire Council.

“The top five complaint issues were: conflict of interest (19 per cent), breach Councillor Code of Conduct (19 per cent), breach of trust (17 per cent), dishonest/impartial performance of functions (7 per cent) and breach policy / guidelines (6 per cent),” the OIA said in Insight.

An OIA spokeswoman said it was only currently possible to break down complaints into regions and not individual councils.

Of these complaints, 43 per cent came from members of the public and 42 per cent from within the local government sector itself.

The second quarter of the 2019 – 2020 financial year was the most popular time for complaints with 22, followed by 10 in the first quarter.

Of the 45 complaints in CQ, 10 proceeded to investigations, seven were referred to the Councillor Conduct Tribunal CCT, and one resulted in legal action.

The top five reasons for referral to the CCT were; failing to disclose or manage a conflict of interest, breaching trust placed in a councillor, failing to disclose a material personal interest, misuse/inappropriate release of council information and not disclosing or updating relevant interests in a councillor’s register of interests.

READ MORE: Expenses, complaints, highlights revealed in council report

READ MORE: The councils copping the most complaints

A three-month amnesty on complaints for all first-time mayors and councillors in relation to complaints about alleged misconduct or inappropriate conduct, except when the matter is serious, was announced this year on May 5.

“This temporary measure was introduced in recognition of the steep learning curve faced by new councillors, particularly while dealing with the challenges posed by COVID-19,” the OIA said.

By June 30, this amnesty had applied 18 times in cases involving 18 councillors for 12 alleged breaches of the Councillor Code of Conduct, three alleged conflicts of interest, one alleged breach of council policy, one alleged breach of trust and one alleged release of confidential information.

The amnesty ceases to apply after this Wednesday, August 5.

The Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian said the total of 1030 complaints across the state related to 55 of the state’s 77 local governments.

Of the 1030 complaints, 630 were dismissed, 74 were referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission, 29 were sent back to council and 17 were subject to Councillor Conduct Tribunal decisions.

“The OIA received 1030 complaints about the conduct of councillors in the past financial year and 85 per cent of them came from the public and the local government sector itself,” Ms Florian said.

“This is encouraging because it shows communities are engaged in the processes of local government and councils are actively taking part in efforts to improve integrity in the sector by reporting suspected misconduct or inappropriate conduct.”

READ MORE: Daily 16-page digital edition to feature major stories