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

21 September 2021

The Councillor Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has cleared a Balonne Shire Councillor of allegations that he influenced or tried to influence a council officer tasked with drafting a new water policy and procedure.

The CCT heard the Balonne Shire Council (BSC) chief executive officer (CEO) asked a council officer to draft a policy and procedure governing the sale of the BSC’s excess entitlements to river water obtained under the St George Water Supply Scheme, and to liaise with the councillor, who had relevant expertise, when doing so.

Some weeks later the councillor met with the council officer in relation to the policy and procedure.

He proposed changes regarding the timing of buyers’ payments and clarity around withdrawing offers when payments were not made on time, which the council officer incorporated before the documents were considered by the BSC.

The councillor had a conflict of interest in relation to the proposed policy and procedure.

The OIA submitted that, because of his conflict of interest, the councillor should have refrained from dealing with the council officer in a way that could constitute influence within the meaning of the Local Government Act (the Act), and that he had influenced the officer by suggesting amendments which were included in the draft policy and procedure put to council.

In dismissing the allegations, the CCT noted that while it could be said the councillor’s input had modified the content of the draft policy, it was not satisfied this amounted to influence under the Act due to the nature of the councillor’s proposed changes and because his interactions with the officer were at the CEO’s suggestion.

The influence provision considered in this decision commenced in May 2018, however this provision has since been amended to have broader application.

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: 21 Sep 2021