Office of Local Government announces review of how to deal with councillor misconduct

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The Minister for Local Government announced months ago that Mr Gary Kellar PSM had been appointed to carry out a review following his membership of an expert panel reviewing local government misconduct framework in Queensland in 2017. He was also the GM of Logan City Council for 26 years, so he would have seen his share of councillors behaving badly.

In correspondence to depa and others on 26 November, the Office of Local Government provided the Terms of Reference and a Consultation paper for the review which has nominated a deadline for submissions of 28 March 2022. That’s four months’ notice, and while that’s plenty of time to get a good submission together, it’s also enough time to forget about it.

This is a big deal for us. This year we went through a farce with OLG when we challenged factual errors in a report by the then CEO Tim Hurst. Mr Hurst had found in a code of conduct investigation into a complaint against a Wagga Wagga City Councillor Paul Funnell, that while there should be a suspension and a penalty, there had been no previous form, nor any other complaints waiting investigation - two observations that were demonstrably untrue. We demonstrated it but OLG backed Hurst. And they continue to do so. Cover up, did you say?

We discovered OLG was established in such a way that when they conduct their investigations they are beyond challenge, information is inaccessible under GIPA and even demonstrably untrue findings can only be reviewed if OLG agrees to. And because OLG had refused to do so, we went to NCAT to obtain documents and that decision remains reserved.

We can’t wait to make a submission to the enquiry but there will be lots more of your out there who have been dissatisfied with the way OLG has managed complaints and this is your opportunity.

One of our concerns is that the penalty regime against councillors should, like penalties imposed in the ARL, carry on to the next term, or next season if it were the ARL. Former Councillor Funnell resigned, citing ill-health, a few months ago and everyone was suspicious he was trying to dodge further findings in one or more of the complaints that were in the pipeline when Hurst made his flawed decision.

We know that there were findings about to be made against him that would have been more significant. In one of his daily Facebook rants he attacked OLG for threatening him with “three-months’ suspension” for posting something on the local rag’s website - action which drew multiple complaints, including from us.

Funnell is standing again in the election next weekend, and because of restrictions upon OLG, some of which are clearly self-imposed, those outstanding penalties are unlikely to be imposed.

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