Mayor Williams gets a mysterious gift

Counil approved development of this facility McKenzie Aged Care Group

McKenzie Aged Care Group obtained approval for this facility in Cleveland at Council’s meeting on 12 February 2014

More than $80,000 in political donations was received by Mayor Karen Williams during the 2016 election disclosure period, enabling her to significantly outspend opponent Greg Underwood.

Many well known local businesses and personalities feature in Karen Williams’ recent disclosure of donations received but our interest was piqued by her declaration of a substantial gift from a donor who seemed to be not local and very unknown.

Bay Street Group and McKenzie Aged Care

In August 2012, just a few months after being elected Mayor, Karen Williams received $5,000 from “Bay Street Group, 240 Bay Street, Brighton 3186”.

This was a substantial political donation by Redland City Council standards. When received by Karen Williams, it was equal to the second largest donation she had ever been given, according to her gift disclosures.

Of the many political donors disclosed by Mayor Williams, Bay Street Group is uniquely not Queensland based. So lots of cash coming from a non-Queensland donor. Why?

An ASIC search revealed the existence of Bay Street Group Pty Ltd whose principal place of business is 240 Bay Street Brighton, 3186. This little known Victorian company shares key personnel with McKenzie Aged Care also operating from 240 Bay Street in Brighton, Victoria.

People with roles in both Bay Street Group Pty Ltd and McKenzie Aged Care Group are:

McKenzie Aged Care Group Bay Street Group Pty Ltd
David Gibbs Chairman Secretary
Robert Hutchison Chief Executive Officer Director
Michael Powell Construction, Property Development and Services Director
Mary-Ann McKenzie Resident Relations and Marketing Director
Sally McKenzie Resident and External Relations Director
Source McKenzie Aged Care Group ASIC search

McKenzie Aged Care Group is the developer of two major Redlands accommodation projects.

It seems reasonable to presume that the $5,000 received by Mayor Williams on 1 August 2012 may have come from McKenzie Aged Care Group via the related entity Bay Street Group Pty Ltd.

McKenzie Aged Care Group has been asked why it made this political donation and why the donation was made via Bay Street Group. As yet, they have not responded.

Mayor Williams was asked to explain why this $5,000 gift was not disclosed as being made by the McKenzie Aged Care Group? Her response was:

I have not been aware of any relationship between the two entities.

She went on to say:

I thank you for raising this matter and will ensure it is appropriately dealt with through due process and have referred it to the relevant officer for investigation. 

She has not yet responded to our follow up question:

If you have not been aware of any relationship between the two entities, can you advise what you understood at the time this gift was given and received about the nature of “Bay Street Group” and why you thought this Victorian entity chose to give you $5,000?

McKenzie Aged Care projects in Redland City

McKenzie Ages Care Group's building in Cleveland

McKenzie Aged Care’s building in Smith Street Cleveland

McKenzie Aged Care Group obtained Redland City Council’s approval for development of two large aged care facilities during Mayor Williams’ first term.

The combined value of construction work for these projects is more than $44 million.

Development application PD231010 for a facility at 260 Old Cleveland Road East in Capalaba (CapellaBay) was approved under delegation in 2014.

Development application MCU013138 for a McKenzie Aged Care Group facility, located on the corner of Smith Street and Bay Street in Cleveland, didn’t fully comply with the planning scheme so it was considered at a general meeting of the Redland City Council on 12 February 2014.

The Smith Street application was approved by councillors on a 9-2 vote with Mayor Williams chairing the discussion, voting on the item and supporting it according to the meeting minutes.

After the meeting, the Redland City Bulletin reported that Mayor Karen Williams backed the project, saying “The location is in line with council’s objectives of creating a health services precinct in the Redlands”.

The meeting minutes don’t record any declaration by the Mayor of any personal interest in relation to this item. If a material personal interest or even a perceived conflict of interest in an item being discussed at a Council meeting is not declared there are serious legal implications.

Section 172 of the Local Government Act stipulates that if a councillor has a material personal interest the councillor must:

(a) inform the meeting of the councillor’s material personal interest in the matter; and
(b) leave the meeting room (including any area set aside for the public), and stay out of the meeting room while the matter is being discussed and voted on.

A maximum penalty of a $22,000 fine or two years imprisonment may apply if a councillor is found guilty of failing to disclose a material personal interest.

Political donation laws in Queensland

Political donation disclosure in Queensland local government involves two requirements:

  • Elected officials have to provide and regularly update their statement of interests to their Council CEO. They only disclose the name of any entity providing a gift worth over $500. The address of the donor and specific value of the gift are not detailed.
  • Under local government election law, councillors have to provide more detailed information about gifts received once every four years, lodged a few weeks after the election.

Karen Williams noted that she had received a gift from “Bay Street Group” worth more than $500 in an update to her Statement of Interests dated 22 August 2012.

Her recent disclosure to the Electoral Commission of Queensland dated 27 June 2016 was more informative, advising that the amount received from Bay Street Group was $5,000 and the donor’s address was 240 Bay Street, Brighton, 3186.

This additional information, made available nearly four years after the event, shows that the gift’s value was significant. It also locates the donor at the same address as a firm which has had significant regulatory dealings with Redland City Council (McKenzie Aged Care Group).

The Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) commented in December 2015 on the need for more timely disclosure of political donations and the inconsistency of current disclosure requirements in a public report: Transparency and accountability in local government.

In its response to this CCC report, the Queensland Government recently announced plans to implement real-time on-line disclosure of political donations, with the system expected to be operational by 1 February 2017.

Premier Palaszczuk said: “It means that instead of waiting months to see who is donating to a political party, people will be able to see who is donating and how much they are donating before an election takes place.”

So far, the Labor Government has given no indication that it will follow NSW’s lead in banning developers from making political donations.


Redlands2030 – 29 July 2016

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9 thoughts on “Mayor Williams gets a mysterious gift

  1. All and any donation of cash, goods, services are deemed to be declared if used for the election, because everything has a value to a candidate.
    For example, if a sitting Councillor and Mayor have access to use a fabrication company’s trailer for signage, then that trailer is worth X amount of dollars in value and has to be declared. If that fabrication company has contracts awarded to the council post the election, then the sitting Councillor and Mayor have to declare a conflict and or be investigated for favoring the fabrication company.
    If a sitting Councillor and Mayor have signs all over a property then that is a gift in kind and is declarable to a certain value.
    If a property in a rural area of the Redlands is all signed up for the sitting Councillor and the Mayor and that property is then considered and pushed to be brought into the urban foot print for development, then that is a direct conflict of interest and should be reported to the CCC.

  2. Who cares. All the posts appear to come from anti-development people who would rather see the Redlands stagnate. The greedy attitude of “I am here but no-one else can live here”. We desperately need developments such as Toondah Harbour as a sign of a progressive society.

    • I care. Destruction of vital habitat and blocks of flats are not signs of a progressive society.

  3. I guess it shows the poor level of reporters employed by our local “RAG”.
    I would have thought any reasonable reporter would have grabbed hold of this story and demanded a truthful and complete answer from our Mayor. Shows how pitiful our local paper is.

  4. The scale of the development in a residential area is…”over the top” but more important is the question of process. If we accept that the end justifies the means (as some on social media intimate) whole question of due process goes out the window.

    What is the point of any planning if this scale of development is imposed on the locals, what is the point of calling for declarations of conflict -of- interest if it means nothing.

    The Premier of NSW fell on his sword over a bottle of wine…it wasn’t the gift itself, it was because of the lack of an acknowledgement! (and he was asked three times).

    My question is, will an enquiry follow?

  5. So this is how a totally on residential over sized development in Smith Street where I live got eased through then?
    All local residents objections and representations about size, traffic and parking were totally ignored.

  6. So I have this right, the Mayor receives a large donation and didn’t declare her interest and then says I don’t know who donated the large donation so all is okay. That’s a worry. I would have thought to protect yourself you would check who all your donators are and why. Especially when your the mayor and especially when the mayors vote counts on developments.

  7. $80,000 donated to Karen Williams’ campaign at 2016 local election. Wow! Any wonder her opponent, Greg Underwood, former gen mgr of Redland Shire Council, appalled at seeing how badly this council was being run, came out of retirement in hopes of rectifying bad management practices, didn’t stand a chance. Griffith Uni’s political expert commented it was the dirtiest and grubbiest election he has ever seen. Available to mayor were thousands of dollars to pay for dozens of huge glamorous portrait/signs on major Redland roads, fences, & on asking why Greg’s signs were not seen in Capalaba was informed they were, but overnight destroyed/vanished. All t-shirts worn by dozens of volunteers at various polling stations, had mayor’s photo imprinted on them, while opponent Greg’s had none. No one I spoke with seemed to know who Greg was, including residents in Wellington Pt & Birkdale aged care facilities. CapellaBay Aged Care home with Old Cleveland Rd East address complained of a four-wheeled contraption parked on roadside obscuring visibility of oncoming traffic that belonged to Karen Williams. These are dangerous on highly trafficked roads and should be banned. Thankfully, Fed Member Andrew Laming did not make use of them preferring oversized signs on Capalaba roads at recent election…no opponent’s signs to be seen.
    Astounded ABC’s Steve Austin refused Greg to speak at Cleveland’s interview with Mayor & opponent Greg… by phone… as timing was perfect with Greg in Sydney on the day and no community group heads allowed to speak either…only outgoing Cleveland councillor & head of Walker Corp who made deal to build Toondah Hbr massive project behind closed doors with mayor & followers, shutting out five councillors without portfolios, considered by community as a highly destructive development to fishing industry and shorebird site where mangroves would disappear and only sites left to endangered shorebirds that fly from Siberia under the RAMSAR Convention, would be Manly and Wynnum.
    When informed McKenzie Aged Care home was being built in Capalaba, instead of a childcare facility, intended at the time, a place for out of control boys would be built…prompting me to contact CEO Robert Hutchison. Found message on phone asking to contact head of project who laughed and said most certainly not. Mr Hutchison had been contacted by lobbyist Jim Elder, ex-MP for Capalaba under Peter Beattie’s administration as my concern was that No 1 Brewer Street, entry/exit to CapellaBay Aged Care home, with strange address, w no entry/exit, was saved for Bunnings’ future use. Brewer St resident believes Bunnings hardware giant, rejected from building & taking over Brewer St by Land & Environment Court’s Snr Judge Skoien, who walked the site twice, both times saying NO to taking over Brewer Street, were waiting for right time to seek approval to build there. Judge handed over a 13-page decision to legal reps of Bunnings in January 2000. They still own the site. CEO Hutchison of McKenzie’s CapellaBay Aged Care home is against hardware giant Bunnings moving into Brewer Street… along with local residents. End of Court proceedings allowed for the 9 houses Bunnings purchased and demolished at entry to Brewer St changed to Res B suited example, for units… acceptable to Brewer Street residents and the Capalaba community at large.

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