The councillor complaints process is being reviewed by the Queensland Government and you have until 23 September to make comments and suggestions for improvement.
Queensland has a well established process for people to make complaints (allegations) of corrupt conduct, misconduct or inappropriate conduct against local councillors.
Complaints can be assessed and determined by a Council, the Department of Local Government or the Crime and Corruption Commission.
Each year many councillor complaints are made and investigated. Most complaints are found to lack substance but some are found to be valid and offending councillors are penalised.
Review of the complaints process
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad has initiated a review of the councillor complaints process by an independent panel with the following members:
- Dr David Solomon (Chair), formerly the Queensland Integrity Commisioner
- Gary Kellar, former CEO of Logan City
- Noel Playford, former Mayor of Noosa Shire
Public comments are now sought in response to a discussion paper which identifies the following areas of concern:
- Purpose and scope of the complaints system
- Legislative framework
- Efficiency and effectiveness
- Offences and penalties
- Roles of CEOs, Mayors and the Department
- Procedural fairness and natural justice
- Protection against reprisal
Three broad options for change are put forward in the discussion paper:
- Incremental improvement to the current system of councillor complaints
- Devolve more investigative responsibility to councils, with support from existing agencies such as the Ombudsman
- Centralise and streamline the process with a tribunal as the over-arching investigative and disciplinary body for all aspects of councillor conduct complaints other than corrupt conduct
Redland City’s councillor complaints
46 complaints about Redland City councillors have been dealt with by the Council or the Department since the beginning of 2012.
These complaints were about allegations of misconduct, inappropriate conduct and in some instances ‘another matter’.
Eight complaints were found to be partly or wholly substantiated. Other complaints were found to be “not substantiated” or “lacking in substance” and one was dismissed as being “vexatious”. A few complaints have been “withdrawn” or “discontinued”.
Redlands2030 understands that some of the 46 complaints were lodged by elected councillors against their political opponents, often anonymously.
Details of resolved complaints can be found in the Councillor General Complaints Register.
Complaints referred to the Department of Local Government
In the two years to 30 June 2016, 396 complaints (allegations) against local councillors in Queensland were referred to the Department of Local Government (Discussion Paper page 15).
|Type of complaint||2014/15||2015/16||Total|
Of the 245 complaints to the Department which were finalised, 30 (12%) were upheld leading to penalties being applied.
Complaints to the Crime and Corruption Commission
From 2008-9 to 2014-5 there were 1,275 complaints about councillors made to the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC).
The Discussion Paper says (page 16):
Of note is the steady decline in the number of allegations against councillors since 2012, which coincides with an overall reduction in the number of public sector complaints received by the CCC. This is likely due to amendments to the CC Act which commenced on 1 July 2014. In particular the tighter definition of corrupt conduct; the raising of the threshold to notify the CCC of corrupt conduct by public officials; and the imposition of a statutory declaration to accompany a complaint. Perceptions about the nature of the CCC’s role may also have changed due to amendments requiring the CCC to focus on more serious cases of corrupt conduct and systemic corrupt conduct.
Issues for consideration about councillor complaints
Possible ideas or issues already raised with Redlands2030 include:
- Expectations of councillors’ conduct in relation to declaration of political donations should be clarified including an explicit requirement that the councillors should not participate in any council meetings, workshops or other discussions where there is a possible conflict of interest arising from the political donation
- The complaints process should be procedurally fair to the person making the complaint and to the councillor who is the subject of the complaint
- A council’s Mayor and CEO should not have any role in disciplining elected councillors
- Complaints should be able to be assessed on a “pattern of behaviour” rather than on proving specific breaches of law or codes of conduct
- Serious complaints against public officials should be assessed on the “balance of probability” rather than “beyond reasonable doubt”
Community input to a Redlands2030 submission
The review panel is seeking comments and ideas to help them assess the effectiveness of the current process for handling complaints against councillors.
Here are links to the discussion paper and two background papers:
- Discussion paper: Issues and options for Queensland’s councillor complaints system
- Background: Councillor responsibilities under the Local Government Act 2009
- Background: Councillor conduct
A comprehensive community based submission is being prepared by Redlands2030 . You can have a say by commenting on this post or you can email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments will be collated into a Redlands2030 submission post making recommendations about the policy, legislation and operational changes needed to improve the complaints system.
The cut off date for inclusion of comments in the Redlands2030’s submission is 16 September.
To respond individually to the discussion paper or provide any other feedback directly to the Review Panel:
- email your submission to ComplaintsReviewPanel@dilgp.qld.gov.au
- post your submission to: Councillor Complaints Review Panel, c/o The Project Manager, PO Box 15000, City East, Queensland 4002
Submissions to the Review Panel close on 23 September 2016.