Toowoomba City Hall.
Toowoomba City Hall.

Eight complaints made about Toowoomba councillors in 2019-20

SEVERAL complaints against Toowoomba councillors were filed to the local government conduct assessor during the past financial year.

The Office of the Independent Assessor has revealed its final statistics for the 2019-20 year, with more than 1000 complaints submitted across Queensland during that period.

Of those complaints, 82 were lodged to the OIA about councillors in the "Greater Brisbane and Darling Downs" collection, which includes Toowoomba, Western Downs, Southern Downs, Goondiwindi, Scenic Rim, Lockyer Valley and Somerset.

As of last month, there are still three complaints under investigation, while another four are either in front or being finalised by the Councillor Conduct Tribunal.

"While some councils have dealt with inappropriate conduct openly, objectively and fairly, other councils have expressed concerns about councillors sitting in judgment of their peers and their reluctance to substantiate a conduct allegation," independent assessor Kathleen Florian wrote in her quarterly report.

"Alliances are also cause for concern as councillors who belong to a team or voting block appear less likely to be found to have engaged in inappropriate conduct than someone who is on the political outer."

By law, the council is required to list a register of the complaints and their outcomes on its website.

The councillor in question is not named if the complaint is dismissed.

Here is a list of the complaints available for the period between July 2019 and June 2020, based on when the complaint was finalised.

 

TOOWOOMBA REGIONAL COUNCIL

 

1. Misconduct - July 24, 2019

Complaint: Councillor failed to declare a conflict of interest when considering an application at a council meeting. Councillor may also had an opportunity to influence a council decision.

Result: The OIA dismissed the complaint, on the basis that the conduct did not raise a reasonable suspicion of inappropriate conduct or misconduct.

 

2. Inappropriate conduct - September 26, 2019

Complaint: It was alleged that on July 26 2019, after submitting public submission letters for a proposed development, the complainant was threatened with retribution on social media by comments made by two councillors from Toowoomba Regional Council.

Result: Dismissed. The OIA delegate made the decision to take no further action on the complaint as the comment identified did not constitute inappropriate conduct or misconduct.

 

3. Misconduct - July 9, 2019

Complaint: That the councillor failed to declare a conflict of interest when

considering a matter at a council meeting.

Result: Following an investigation the OIA dismissed the complaint, on the basis that the conduct did not raise a reasonable suspicion of inappropriate conduct or misconduct.

 

4. Misconduct - December 17, 2019

Complaint: It was alleged that a councillor failed to declare a conflict of interest at

council and committees meetings in relation to the Community Grant Program approval. It was further alleged that the Councillor failed to declare a conflict of interest at council and committee meetings in relation to the Community Grant Policy.

Result: The OIA decided to take no further action in relation to the councillor's failure to declare a conflict of interest at meetings relating to the Community Grant Program approval, on the basis that it is an unjustifiable use of OIA resources; and the councillor's failure to declare a conflict of interest at meetings relating to the Community Grant Policy on the basis that the councillor's conduct does not raise a reasonable suspicion of inappropriate conduct or misconduct.

 

5. Misconduct - January 7, 2020

Complaint: It is alleged a councillor influenced or attempted to influence councillors to vote in a particular way at a meeting of council or one of its committees.

Result: The OIA decided to take no further action on the basis that the conduct did not raise a reasonable suspicion of inappropriate conduct or misconduct.

 

6. Misconduct - August 9, 2019 and January 17, 2020

Complaint: It is alleged that a councillor failed to declare a conflict of interest at meetings relating to the Procurement Policy. It was further alleged that the councillor failed to declare a conflict of interest at meetings relating to the Advertising Spending Policy.

Result: The OIA decided to take no further action, on the basis that it is an unjustifiable use of resources.

 

7. Corrupt Conduct - April 7, 2020

Complaint: It was alleged that a councillor had been taking secret commissions from other business operators through his private business enterprise.

Result: The OIA decided to take no further action, as any further dealing on the matter would be an unjustifiable use of resources. Inquiries were undertaken by another agency who determined that the allegation did not raise a reasonable suspicion of corrupt conduct. Further inquiries undertaken by the OIA did not support a reasonable suspicion of misconduct.

 

8. Misconduct - June 18, 2020

Complaint: A councillor self-referred to the OIA that they attended an information session on a matter when they had a conflict of interest in the matter. Upon realising the matter being discussed, the councillor left the meeting.

Result: The OIA decided to take no further action, on the basis that the conduct does not raise a reasonable suspicion of inappropriate conduct or misconduct. An information session where no decisions are made does not fall under the conflict of interest and therefore the councillor did not have to declare a conflict of interest in the matter.