10 misconduct claims against Maranoa councillors dismissed
In less than a year, the Office of Independent Assessor (OIA) investigated numerous claims of alleged misconduct against several Maranoa Regional councillors.
From the start of this new term of council, investigators from the OIA looked into various claims of alleged wrongdoing.
In a complaint received on March 25, 2020, it alleged a councillor posted on social media about advice on how to vote in the upcoming election.
The OIA ultimately decided to dismiss the claim, however considered the Queensland Electoral Commission would be better placed to assess the matter under the Local Government Electoral Act.
A month after councillors were officially sworn in, on March 6 2020, the OIA investigated after it was alleged a secret meeting was held in the council building to discuss the budget.
This claim was also dismissed, with the OIA saying there’s an expectation for councillors to meet and discuss matters as a long as ‘decisions’ were made in council meetings.
Furthermore, due to one matter being outside the jurisdiction of the OIA, a claim against deputy mayor Geoff McMullen was cleared after it alleged he breached council’s policies.
‘It was alleged that a councillor, Cr Geoff McMullen, breached council’s policies including the Works in Road Reserves, Construction of Roads for Access to Property and Register of Roads Policy when council considered an application made by a resident for a permit to occupy an unnamed section of Road at meetings,’ the complaint noted.
The OIA cleared the deputy mayor of any wrongdoing, citing the claim does not raise a reasonable suspicion of inappropriate conduct.
In August, the OIA received a complaint that a councillor failed to declare a conflict of interest, or a material personal interest.
Investigators received the complaint on August 20, 2020 about closed item Tariff Subsidy for Local Business.
The matter was cleared as the OIA believed the conduct did not amount to inappropriate conduct as the matter was an ordinary business matter and no requirement to declare a real or perceived conflict of interest or material personal interest existed.
A month later, the OIA looked into a complaint made against two councillors allegedly they both owned, or had family that owned or had interests in, commercial buildings and voted to have the commercial rates reduced by 65 per cent, not declaring a conflict of interest.
The OIA found as makers and levying of rates and charges, there was no requirement for a declaration to be made, therefore dismissing the matter.
The same month, the OIA discharged a claim relating to a Facebook comment made against a media article concerning the complainant.
The OIA said the comment was not made by a councillor and was therefore outside their jurisdiction.
Councillor John Birkett requested his name be attached to a claim made against him on November 15, 2020 which claimed he didn’t declare a conflict of interest in a council meeting on November 11, 2020.
The OIA looked at the council minutes which indicate each of the councillors declared conflicts of interests in relation to the matter and left the room.
“However, because of the declarations made by majority of councillors, council resolved to delegate the decision to the CEO. This is consistent with the terms of the act,” the OIA noted.
In the same council meeting dated November 11, 2020 another councillor was cleared of wrongdoing after a claim stated they did not raise a conflict of interest.
The OIA noted the councillor no longer had an interest in the matter.
Councillor Wendy Taylor had two claims made against her and requested her name be attributed against the complaints on the council website.
The first claim dated November 20, 2020 said Cr Taylor released information confidential to council about a decision on social media.
The OIA found the information was consistent which was already publicly available on the council minutes.
On December 14, 2020 the OIA investigated Cr Taylor after a claim alleged she posted more confidential information on Facebook regarding the sale of the cinema.
The OIA dismissed the anonymous complaint made about the Cr Taylor’s Facebook post as the information was also publicly available as part of council’s published minutes.