TEARFUL: Mayor apologises over Inland Rail misconduct
TOOWOOMBA Mayor Paul Antonio fought back tears as he was forced to apologise for his misconduct over his Inland Rail dealings.
Cr Antonio delivered the apology today, where he again affirmed his decision that paying for the development of an alternative route for the Inland Rail on behalf of a farmer near Millmerran was not out of self-interest.
Cr Antonio owns a basalt quarry that runs near the line, and did not disclose the commissioning of the map to councillors at the time.
"My actions were not to serve my own personal interests and I have in no way intended to benefit personally or professionally from it," he told his councillors at the ordinary meeting.
"I commissioned and paid for the proposal with the sole intent to help a local constituent to preserve fertile agricultural land, the loss of which I believed would've had a devastating effect on him, his family and others in my area.
"I provided a copy of the proposal to the constituent, where he could give to those who were affected, and to those who I thought were in a position to assist him in putting his case forward to preserve his land."
The local government review panel last month ruled he had engaged in three acts of misconduct relating to the concealment of the map, his voting on the Inland Rail at a council meeting in 2016, and his responses during a September 2017 ABC interview about the matter.
While apologising for the error in not declaring his ownership of the quarry to the council, he again defended his intentions as altruistic.
"I would like to acknowledge however, that my intention was not to disguise my actions or mislead this council," he said.
"I did not submit the proposal for council's consideration as the decision on the Inland Rail route was and will continue to be the matter for the Commonwealth Government, the State Government and Australian Rail Track Corporation.
"Neither the TRC nor the infrastructure planning committee were in a position to impact those decisions."
This defence was rejected by the panel during its ruling.
Cr Antonio also criticised the interviewing manner of ABC journalist Dominique Schwartz during the 2017 interview, where he was caught concealing the fact he had given the map to Groom MP John McVeigh and former federal minister Ian Macfarlane.
"The topic (of the interview) turned to my role in commissioning an alternative line proposal, and the journalist began to question me in an extremely aggressive and adversarial manner," he said.
"I did attempt to respond on the spot in most circumstances, in an open and honest way.
"But I admit that I did not respond with the usual celerity and frankness that I always try to employ in my dealings with the press. I acknowledge my error in that regard.
"The panel had concluded that my lack of candour during the interview amounted to a breach of trust placed in me as a councillor, and that this conduct has caused reputational damage to the Toowoomba Regional Council.
"If this is the case, I sincerely apologise."
COUNCILLORS CLASH OVER MAYOR APOLOGY
AFTER Cr Antonio left the room, Cr Bill Cahill, who was one of the people who had submitted a complaint about his conduct, rose to move a new motion requesting the council remove the mayor as the spokesman for all matters regarding the Inland Rail.
No one seconded the motion and it lapsed, which Cr Cahill later described as "interesting".
"It begs the question - is there anything else we don't know about?" he said.
"It raises concerns about the number of people involved, who knew about this and chose not to do anything about it."
Cr Cahill's motion incensed colleague Cr Joe Ramia, who defended the mayor after the meeting.
"After 25 years in council, I was utterly and bitterly disappointed that a colleague could dump what he did on the Mayor," he said.
"We have gone through a very tough and arduous period up here, and I look at what this council has done for this region.
"All of a sudden, out of nowhere, for some political gain that I'm not aware of, we get a question to the integrity commission about the Mayor.
"I don't think the Mayor has done anything different to what we do every day."