Rockhampton Regional Council building.
Rockhampton Regional Council building.

FULL DETAILS: Official complaints against councillors

COUNCILS in Central Queensland received three complaints against them between July 1 and September 30 this year, the lowest number of any group of councils.

Data from the Office of Independent Assessor show that 191 complaints were made about the conduct of councillors from the beginning of this financial year to the end of September.

Central Queensland - Rockhampton, Livingstone, Gladstone, Banana, Central Highlands, and Woorabinda Shires - and the Greater Whitsundays both had the fewest complaints, three, whereas Greater Brisbane/Darling Downs had the most, 53.

Most of the complaints, 42 per cent, were made by the public, but the OIA said an increasing number of councillors referred themselves to the overwatch body.

The top five issues about which people complained in regional Queensland more broadly were breach of trust (30 per cent), breach of the Code of Conduct (22 per cent), conflict of interest (20 per cent), dishonest/impartial performance (6 per cent) and not councillor conduct (5 per cent).

Former mayor Margaret Strelow was the subject of an OIA investigation.
Former mayor Margaret Strelow was the subject of an OIA investigation.

Rockhampton Regional Council complaints

Rockhampton Regional Council has three complaints on its Councillor Conduct Register, dated from the start of the calendar year to December 3, that the OIA investigated.

On June 5, it was alleged that a councillor disclosed confidential council information to a third party.

On a separate occasion, the councillor failed to disclose a conflict of interest - that of being an office holder in a community organisation - during a council meeting.

The OIA determined no further action was needed.

"The councillor was afforded the benefit of the Independent Assessor's short-term amnesty for new councillors who are suspected of having engaged in misconduct which is not serious," its decision read.

"The OIA has written to the councillor and provided the councillor with resources to assist them to identify and manage their conflicts of interest moving forward."

On July 2 came the decision regarding former mayor Margaret Strelow's misconduct as defined by the OIA.

Most recently, on November 30, a complaint was made alleging that without authorisation, a councillor granted a sporting club permission to use McLeod Park for training.

The OIA said it would not take further action.

"After an investigation, it appeared likely that the club misunderstood what the councillor had told them," it said.

"There was evidence that corroborated that misunderstanding by the club of explanations made by other council employees."

Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian. Photo: Peter Wallis
Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian. Photo: Peter Wallis

Previous financial year

More than 1000 complaints about Queensland councillors were lodged with the OIA in the 2019-20 financial year.

Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian said the complaints related to 55 of the state's 77 local governments.

"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," she 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."

Ms Florian cautioned against making any assumptions based on the number of complaints alone.

"While a large number of complaints about a specific council or region can point to a problem, it could equally indicate a strong focus on identifying and reporting councillor conduct, which is an indicator of a robust integrity culture," she said.

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