Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian. Picture: Peter Wallis
Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian. Picture: Peter Wallis

Investigations into sacked councillors could be ‘revisited’

THE OFFICE of the Independent Assessor said investigations into former Ipswich councillors put on hold following their dismissal would be "revisited" if any are elected again in next month's election.

But the watchdog would not confirm which of the sacked councillors had been under investigation.

Between its inception on December 3 2018 and December 31 last year, the OIA started 460 investigations across the state.

Eleven of those concern Ipswich City Council, with the OIA confirming all matters are related to former councillors.

An OIA spokeswoman said all of these investigations are on hold so that resources can be focused on misconduct allegations involving sitting Queensland councillors.
"Under the OIA's media policy, the OIA does not confirm or deny whether it has received a complaint or is undertaking an investigation, unless the fact that the OIA has received a complaint, or is undertaking an investigation, is already in the public arena," an OIA spokeswoman said.

By the end of last year, the OIA had 124 active investigations, while 27 were parked pending the outcome of criminal charges and another 28 were on hold.

At the end of a full investigation, the independent assessor Kathleen Florian can either dismiss the matter or start a statutory natural justice process prior to a possible referral to the Councillor Conduct Tribunal.

Between December 3 2018 and December 31 last year, the OIA received 19 complaints related to Ipswich.

Across Queensland, the highest number of complaints that led to an OIA investigation were lodged by the Crime and Corruption Commission, followed by members of the public, with sitting councillors rounding out the top three sources of investigations.

"I'm hopeful this information will highlight the councils where education and induction efforts should be stepped up after the March elections, and where other proactive measures could be considered to drive some improvements," Ms Florian said.

"By the 31st of December, the OIA had received 1,414 complaints identifying 1,728 different issues.

"Some may see this number of complaints as alarming; I don't.

"I see this as an indicator of a positive integrity culture.

"Some councillors have started to refer themselves to the OIA when they realise they may have breached a conduct provision, and we are seeing an increasing number of complaints coming from the local government sector."