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Statement by the Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian – Cassowary Coast councillor decision

4 March 2021

A Cassowary Coast councillor has been cleared of an allegation he engaged in misconduct by not declaring a conflict of interest in matters relating to the council chief executive officer (CEO).

A complaint was made to the Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA) after the councillor did not declare a personal interest at a council meeting in 2017, which considered a request to indemnify the CEO from certain legal proceedings involving a defamation claim against some residents.

The Councillor Conduct Tribunal (CCT) heard the councillor and the CEO had established both a personal and professional relationship with each other before they joined the council.

The CEO acknowledged the pair had struck up a friendship, having had limited social contact over a number of years.

In the lead-up to the 2016 election he also provided free training to members of the Cassowary Coast Unity Alliance, including the councillor who was a candidate at the time. The training was designed to prepare them for a role in local government.

At a council meeting later in 2016 which considered the recruitment of a CEO, the councillor declared a perceived conflict of interest due to his personal relationship with the preferred applicant, who was ultimately appointed.

The councillor said that disclosure had been made out of an abundance of caution.

In dismissing the misconduct allegation, the CCT did not expressly address the pre-election training provided, but found it was difficult to reconcile that a “handful” of interactions would amount to a personal interest that would cause the councillor to be biased.

The Councillor Conduct Tribunal decision can be found here.

ENDS

Media contact: OIAmedia@oia.qld.gov.au or 0477 385727.

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Last updated: Thursday, Mar 4, 2021