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Statement by the Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian – Balonne Shire councillor decision

15 September 2021

Balonne Shire Councillor and irrigator, Ian Todd, has been found to have engaged in misconduct by failing to declare a conflict of interest when voting on a council water policy.

The Councillor Conduct Tribunal (CCT) found Cr Todd failed to disclose his personal interest, as a local irrigator who held two water entitlements within the St George Water Supply Scheme, at a meeting which adopted a policy governing the sale of council water entitlements.

The CCT heard the Balonne Shire Council paid an annual allocation charge to obtain river water under the St George Water Supply Scheme, but only used approximately half of its yearly allocation and could sell the excess entitlements to other water users, providing an income source for the council.

Prior to 2019 there was no formal policy governing how applications for excess entitlements were to be handled but at the start of that year Cr Todd worked with a council employee to prepare a draft policy and procedure; he held the portfolio of Water Resource Management and Urban Water and Wastewater at the time.

The policy and procedure were then adopted by the council at a meeting in late February 2019 where Cr Todd seconded the motion without declaring a personal interest or disclosing a conflict of interest.

Cr Todd denied he had a conflict but the CCT heard that as a local irrigator and water entitlement holder he was a member of a class of persons who were eligible to apply for, and be awarded, excess water from the council under the adopted policy and procedure.

It also heard that on a previous occasion the councillor had unsuccessfully sought to purchase an excess water entitlement from the council and had been successful in purchasing the same sort of entitlement in the month before the policy was adopted..

The CCT found that by failing to disclose his interest as required by law Cr Todd did not act ethically and knowingly breached the trust placed in him as a councillor.

It highlighted that councillors have significant power to make decisions that affect people in their area and that transparency is necessary to show they have exercised those powers appropriately and in the public interest.

Cr Todd was ordered to attend training to address his conduct with the CCT noting the penalty would be both educative and have the “effect of deterrence”.

The CCT decision can be found here.

ENDS

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

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Last updated: Wednesday, Sep 15, 2021