Repeated instances of inappropriate conduct by two term councillor Paul Gleeson raise questions about his character and how local councils deal with complaints about elected politicians.
The resident reported this event to the police and lodged a complaint about Cr Gleeson with the Redland City Council.
Three months later, Mayor Karen Williams reprimanded Cr Gleeson for “inappropriate conduct and behaving in a manner below what is expected of a Redland City Councillor”.
Cr Gleeson has been a serial offender
This was the fifth time that Cr Gleeson’s conduct was found to have been inappropriate. His social media usage has resulted in reprimands or counseling after four other complaints. Allegations substantiated wholly or in part, have included:
- Inappropriate publication of personal information on facebook and failure to demonstrate respect to member of community
- Posting material on social media that is offensive, threatening or bullying and disrespectful to members of the community
- Altercation on Social Media page that is alleged as offensive and threatening
- Disrespectful remarks on social media
Cr Gleeson “has a track record of online cyberbullying” said Local labor MP Don Brown recently.
Cr Gleeson’s political career began in 2009 when he was the unsuccessful LNP candidate for the state seat of Capalaba.
In 2012 he was elected to Council, campaigning against high rise development in Capalaba.
He then became a regular supporter of Mayor William’s pro-development agenda and in 2016 was re-elected as a member of her team, appearing on her how to vote card.
Many sporting codes have tightened rules to compel better behaviour. Swimmers who false start get no second chance. Dangerous play in ball sports results in sin-binning or suspension. Professional sporting bodies impose stiff fines for ill-discipline.
But it seems that as a Redlands local councillor it’s possible to behave inappropriately, again and again, with just the mildest of consequences.
A Mayor can order that any repetition of inappropriate conduct be dealt with as misconduct, which could result in more serious consequences such as a fine or suspension.
But Mayor Williams didn’t make such an order after Cr Gleeson’s fifth offence. Why not?
Since the current council was elected in March 2016, Cr Gleeson has had two reprimands for “inappropriate conduct”. No other current councillor has had a complaint substantiated against them in this time.
Details of recent complaints about councillors are in the Councillor General Complaints Register which can be downloaded from the Redland City Council website. Older complaints are recorded in this earlier version of the register.
Improving the councillor complaints process
Laws to reform the councillor complaints process were being considered in an inquiry by Parliament’s Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee, until State Parliament was dissolved for the 25 November election.
A high proportion of submissions to this inquiry came from the Redlands.
Councillor Gleeson, wanting action taken “to weed out serial complainers”, moved as a matter of urgency that Redland City Council make a submission about the complaints process.
The Council’s submission included various recommendations which could make it more difficult for people to lodge complaints. The Council also argued that people should be prohibited from discussing complaints unless and until they have been substantiated.
Redlands2030 also made a submission to the inquiry, raising concerns about the time taken to resolve complaints, lack of transparency and the risk that a councillor might willfully mislead whoever is dealing with a complaint.
The adequacy of sanctions for bad behaviour by councillors was questioned by Redlands2030.
Deputy Mayor Wendy Boglary supported a prohibition on disclosure of information until such time the complaint has been assessed, substantiated, finalised. In her submission, she said:
I have witnessed complaints made to discredit a person, information concerning councillors leaked, before any investigation results given, to sway election results and destroy a person’s character. It is imperative that complaints are kept confidential so justice can be given to all involved.
Mr Dan Ling’s submission discussed a specific complaint. He said complaints should be dealt with more quickly – in 28 days instead of “three months and counting”.
Will the new State Government clean up local councils?
Cleaning up local government is a major task for the new government to be elected on 25 November.
An on-line poll by Redlands2030 finds that corruption and integrity in government and local councils is an election issue of concern to most respondents.
Much attention will be given to political donations and conflicts of interest laws, recommended by the Crime and Corruption Commission following Operation Belcarra.
But fixing the councillor complaints process is also important. A better complaints system together with more appropriate consequences for inappropriate conduct may help to deal with problems like Councillor Gleeson.