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OIA allays concerns about ‘weaponised’ complaints

17 May 2021

The Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA) has moved to allay councillor concerns that complaints about their conduct are being used as weapons by opponents and detractors.

Independent Assessor, Kathleen Florian, said she had been contacted by councillors with concerns the complaints system could be misused by people seeking to cause them harm or place them under pressure.

“Regrettably, this can happen in the competitive world of politics, but it is a widespread issue that is not unique to local government nor to Queensland,” Ms Florian said.

“The OIA knows that politicised and other improper complaints are sometimes lodged and our processes are capable of identifying legitimate matters.

“We assess each complaint strictly on its merits, and if it lacks substance it will be dismissed or subject to no further action, but if it raises a reasonable suspicion of misconduct it will be investigated and the subject councillor will be held to account if need be.”

Figures in the latest Insight report show no action was required for 1331 of the 2713 complaints lodged between the OIA’s establishment in December 2018 and 31 March 2021, while 805 matters became subject to an OIA investigation.

“The dismissal of a complaint does not necessarily indicate it was improper, in fact most are dismissed because the allegations don’t raise a reasonable suspicion of inappropriate conduct or misconduct as prescribed by the legislation,” Mr Florian said.

To help councillors to avoid misconduct the OIA develops useful resources and today announced a new example policy and framework to guide councillors’ interactions with property developers and others who submit their views on development issues (submitters).

“Councillors need to be confident in knowing if and when they can engage with property developers and other submitters, and when those interactions should be left to council officers,” Ms Florian said.

“The OIA’s newest resources step them through the council approval process, from the time before a development application is lodged through to the post-decision appeal, and they highlight how interactions should be handled, particularly when conflicts of interest arise.

“These tools will help councillors to ensure they’re being transparent and making decisions that benefit the public while dealing with the strong community interest and competing demands often associated with development projects.”

More on the OIA’s example policy and councillor complaint statistics can be found in Insight 9.

ENDS

Media contact: 0477 385 727 or OIAmedia@oia.qld.gov.au.

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Last updated: Monday, May 17, 2021