Redland City Councillor Paul Gleeson (Division 9) has again been reprimanded for his inappropriate social media usage.
A Redlands resident submitted a complaint to Redland City Council in response to Cr Gleeson’s comments on the Redlands2030 Facebook page earlier this year.
The complainant was recently advised that the Mayor determined Cr Gleeson’s comments to have been inappropriate and he has been reprimanded in accordance with the Local Government Act 2009. The Council’s advice stated that:
The reason for the determination was the Councillors use of inappropriate language contrary to Guideline 0248-007 Use of Social Media by Councillors, namely, “Be polite and respectful to all people they interact with.”
Gleeson is a serial offender
Since he was first elected to Council in 2012 there have been several complaints about Cr Gleeson’s conduct on social media. All except the most recent complaint are detailed in the Councillor General Complaints Register which can be downloaded from the Council’s website.
In 2014 a complaint about alleged disrespectful remarks on social media resulted in Mayor Karen Williams making an order reprimanding Cr Gleeson for inappropriate conduct and an order that any repeat of the inappropriate conduct be referred to a regional conduct review panel as misconduct.
Within a year, another complaint about Cr Gleeson’s social media conduct (alleged inappropriate publication of personal information on facebook and failure to demonstrate respect to member of community) was part substantiated. On this occasion the outcome was counselling from the Mayor.
In January 2016 a complaint was substantiated that Cr Gleeson had engaged in posting material on social media that is offensive, threatening or bullying and disrespectful to members of the community. But instead of being referred to a regional conduct review panel for a misconduct hearing the serially offending councillor was given another reprimand by the Mayor.
A couple of months later, during the local government elections, Cr Gleeson appeared as a member of Mayor Williams’ team on her How to Vote card.
Use of social media by councillors
In late 2014, after Cr Gleeson’s first reprimand, Redland City Council approved a guideline on the use of social media which says that councillors must not:
- Post material that is offensive, obscene, defamatory, threatening, harassing, bullying,discriminatory, hateful, racist, sexist, infringes copyright, constitutes a contempt ofcourt, breaches a Court suppression order, or is otherwise unlawful.
- Use, disclose or release any confidential or personal information obtained in their capacity as a councillor.
These social media guidelines support the Council’s Code of Conduct which sets out the standards of behaviour expected of councillors including that Councillors must:
- ensure that their personal conduct does not reflect adversely on Council’s reputation
- demonstrate respect for fellow councillors, council employees and members of the community
- commit to honest, fair and respectful engagement with the community
Inappropriate conduct and misconduct
The conduct and performance of councillors is dealt with in Division 6 of the Local Government Act 2009.
Two levels of unacceptable behaviour are defined in Section 176: inappropriate conduct and the more serious offence of misconduct which includes repeated instances of inappropriate conduct. Corrupt conduct is dealt with separately by the Crime and Corruption Act.
Under the Local Government Act people can lodge complaints about a councillor’s conduct and there is a process for dealing with complaints.
If a councillor is found to have engaged in inappropriate conduct they can be reprimanded. Also, an order can be made that further instances of the inappropriate behaviour will be treated as misconduct which can result in more serious sanctions including a fine and/or a recommendation to the Minister that the councillor be suspended or even dismissed.
Review of councillor complaints process
Seven months later, according to the Government’s website, “responses are being considered”.