Independent assessor Kathleen Florian. Pic Peter Wallis
Independent assessor Kathleen Florian. Pic Peter Wallis

Unexpectedly high number of councillor complaints lodged

AN unexpectedly high number of complaints about the conduct of Queensland councillors was received by the Office of the Independent Assessor since it opened its doors a year ago.

The OIA was inundated with 1341 complaints, containing 1646 separate allegations, since December 3 last year.

It was expecting just 160 complaints in its first year of operation, instead being flooded with 740 per cent more than expected.

Over the past year, the OIA received 118 complaints for the Greater Brisbane/Darling Downs region which consists of Ipswich, Lockyer Valley, Somerset and Scenic Rim councils.

Goondiwindi, Toowoomba, Western Downs and Southern Downs councils are also included in this group.

Across the state, it received complaints about 41 mayors and 57 of the 76 councils under its jurisdiction.

Members of the public lodged 41 per cent of all complaints received by the OIA, followed closely by the local government sector which lodged 36 per cent of complaints.

Independent assessor Kathleen Florian believes the high number of complaints was driven by the recent focus on councillors' conduct as a result of the number of high-profile legal cases making headlines.

"These are disciplinary matters where the Tribunal is providing councillors with important clarity on what is required of them and the OIA is, case-by-case, consistently and transparently, reinforcing those standards," Ms Florian said.

"This disciplinary focus is crucial not only to contributing to a state-wide culture of awareness and proper conduct, but in identifying and addressing where Councillors or Councils need further training or support.

"The best defence against complaints is good conduct and the OIA works hard to provide guidance and tools for Councillors to help them better understand their legal obligations in what is a high-volume, high-value and sometimes high-pressure decision-making environment."

While 60 per cent of complaints were ultimately dismissed, 557 complaints required an investigation and 47 per cent of these have already been finalised.

80 matters involving 106 separate allegations against 42 Mayors and Councillors are currently either before the Councillor Conduct Tribunal, being considered for referral or have already been decided by the Tribunal.