VERDICT: Decision on Mayor Golder’s misconduct reached
Maranoa Regional Council mayor Tyson Golder has been found to have been involved in misconduct, amounting to a breach of trust.
The Councillor Conduct Tribunal received allegations from a complainant, who cannot be identified as per section 150AS(5) of the Local Government Act 2009, that Cr Golder engaged in unauthorised conduct when meeting with landowners affected by a flood mitigation project in November 2017.
It was alleged that fellow councillors were of the belief Cr Golder gave the affected landholders a ‘without prejudice’ offer to purchase the affected land for $150,000, which was equivalent to the original purchase price.
This was discussed in a closed meeting, and the resolution was passed when the meeting was opened, “that Council offer the landholder a ‘without prejudice’ meeting with the Mayor accompanied by both parties’ relevant legal representation, with an outcome of that meeting to be finalised by 12pm noon on Friday 10 November 2017.”
While he had the ‘without prejudice’ meeting with the landholders and the legal representatives of both parties, it was found he made dishonest, unauthorised, or misleading statements.
Cr Golder said he was there in his personal capacity and not as a councillor and he reiterated that the meeting was at his personal request, not on behalf of council.
He also stated he wanted to reach a deal with these landowners and said his personal opinion was that it wasn’t reasonable to take people’s land by compulsory acquisition.
Cr Golder indicated to the landholders that there was a large police paddock nearby and they could pick an area of it that they liked.
He later offered them 30 to 40 acres (12.14ha to 16.19ha) at no cost.
Then he stated there was a deadline for him to respond to council, and he needed to provide them with a response about any room to move with the offer or land swap option.
It was alleged he offered to write a letter to the council, setting out the landholder’s position to try and negotiate a deal with the council.
Cr Golder told the landholders he understood the emotional toll of the process, as it happened on his mother’s land during Stage 1 of the flood mitigation project.
He reminded the landholders that the sliver of land required by the council was worth $10,000, which he stated was ‘strange’ in comparison to the value of the property next door.
It was alleged these comments made by Cr Golder didn’t reflect the position of the council and weren’t consistent with principles of transparency, good governance, or ethical and legal behaviour.
The Western Star recently received a summary report from the CCT, after they handed down their decision on November 26, 2020.
Its report found Cr Golder was only authorised to offer the landholders the amount of $150,000 and was not permitted to make alternative offers.
Him meeting with the landholders in his ‘personal capacity’ was held to be dishonest, misleading, and/or unauthorised, as this wasn’t approved by the council.
His comments about the compulsory acquisition being ‘strange’ were also deemed to be unauthorised.
“Although the Tribunal accepted Councillor Golder made it clear his statements about compulsory acquisition and the valuation for the Landowners’ land were his personal views, the Tribunal determined expressing those views did not demonstrate high quality leadership and good governance in the circumstances,” the CCT report said.
But Cr Golder’s statement about a potential land swap, writing a letter on behalf of the owners to council, and bringing up his mother’s experience were not held to be in breach.
The CCT did not accept the allegation that Cr Golder intended to write that letter.
His actions were deemed to constitute a ‘breach of trust’ because he met with the landholders in a ‘without prejudice’ meeting and in a personal capacity, these discussions and offers could not be introduced into future formal processes.
Cr Golder has now been ordered to make admissions of his misconduct in the next council meeting, and attend training to address his actions, at his own expense.
Cr Golder told The Western Star that he is awaiting legal advice before he decides to comment further.
The Councillor Conduct Tribunal and Office of the independent Assessor could not be reached for comment due to the Christmas break.