Amnesty announced for first-time councillors
The Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA) has announced a three-month amnesty for first-time councillors and mayors who become the subject of inappropriate or misconduct complaints, unless the matter is serious.
The amnesty does not apply for any re-elected councillors or anyone with previous council experience.
Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian said the amnesty would run from 5 May-5 August 2020.
"This short-term measure is about building councillors' capacity to serve local government and their communities," Ms Florian said.
"It is also recognition that new mayors and councillors, without any local government experience, are facing a steep learning curve at a time when councils are working to support communities impacted by COVID-19."
Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe welcomed the amnesty, saying it would give councillors more confidence when it came to learning their new responsibilities.
"There are big issues that need to be tackled during this pandemic and this small leeway will give our new representatives a bit more time to settle into their positions," he said.
"Having said that, the Palaszczuk Government is absolutely committed to our program of local government reforms, and the OIA, as an independent body, is part of that."
The Independent Assessor stressed that any complaints about first-time councillors and mayors should be lodged with the OIA during the three-month amnesty period so the matters could be assessed as normal.
"Serious complaints will continue to be investigated and addressed as usual," Ms Florian said.
"For less serious complaints, we won't be taking any further investigative action, but we'll contact the subject councillors and provide feedback in relation to their legal obligations and the standards required of elected representatives.
"The aim is to provide a short transition period when brand-new councillors can learn from complaints lodged with the OIA, while we proactively identify any induction gaps that may benefit from targeted training."
During the March elections the OIA received 100 complaints about the conduct of councillors, with more than 60 of these lodged by members of the public.
"Of the 61 complaints we received from the public, 28 were made by election candidates or their spouses and 10 were anonymous," Ms Florian said.
"There were only four councillor-on-councillor complaints and no matters were deemed vexatious although one warning was issued during the election period and a number of warnings were issued about potentially vexatious matters in early February.
"Overall, the number and types of complaints received show people generally heeded advice not to use investigative bodies like the OIA to score political points in the lead-up to the polls."
Since the elections the OIA's jurisdiction has expanded to include Brisbane City Council, which means it now deal with all 77 local governments in Queensland.