Changes will stop councillors reaching watch house: Minister
AN INDEPENDENT body to toughen up the investigation of complaints and nab bad behaviour "before councillors reach the watch-house door" will be operational this year.
The Office of the Independent Assessor will work alongside the Crime and Corruption Commission and have the power to seize documents and compel people to attend interviews, with stiff penalties applying for non-compliance.
"The CCC will continue to investigate corruption, while the Independent Assessor will focus on official misconduct," Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said.
"The new system is designed to put the brakes on bad behaviour long before councillors reach the watch-house door.
"What we have now is not up to the job. It is convoluted, lacks teeth, and - given recent events - clearly fails to act as a sufficient deterrent for some councillors."
Mr Hinchliffe said "one of the biggest weaknesses" of the existing system was the requirement to lodge complaints directly with a council's chief executive officer.
"Understandably, potential complainants can be reluctant to 'dob in' Councillors, given CEOs close working relationship with mayors and councillors," he said.
"Where complaints are not genuine, the Independent Assessor will have the power to dismiss vexatious complaints, and impose a hefty penalty.
The Local Government Association of Queensland welcomed the creation of the new integrity body.
"The LGAQ has been working towards an overhaul of Queensland's councillor complaints system for the past three years," CEO Greg Hallam said.
"Council CEOs will no longer be in the position where they are referred to as Caesar judging Caesar.
"The powers of the new Office of the Independent Assessor will be sufficient to weed out frivolous complaints which are still a large percentage of the complaints received."
He said people's genuine complaints would be dealt with in a faster and fairer manner than previously.