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Statement by the Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian – Cloncurry Shire Councillor decision

11 December 2020

Cloncurry Shire Councillor Dane Swalling has been found to have engaged in misconduct by failing to declare a conflict of interest when voting on the council procurement policy.

The Councillor Conduct Tribunal (CCT) ordered Cr Swalling, who had no prior disciplinary history, to make a public admission of misconduct.

The ruling followed an investigation by the Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA) which found Cr Swalling attended an ordinary council meeting in November 2017 that considered amendments to council’s procurement policy.

The amended policy included a broader definition of the term local suppliers, and changes to the competitive advantages offered to businesses in this category.

OIA investigators found Cr Swalling voted on the matter and took no steps at the meeting to declare his directorship of Cloncurry Plumbing Pty Ltd, which had supplied services to council between 2004 and 2017, and was classed as a local supplier which was eligible for a competitive advantage.

Councillor Swalling submitted that at the time of the meeting his business was no longer working for council, or bidding on council tenders, and that he had adopted a personal policy of not allowing his business to undertake council work while he was in office.

However, the CCT found that Cr Swalling’s business stood to directly benefit from the policy if he decided to again bid for council work, which he could do at any time without making his decision public.

The CCT also referred to how Cr Swalling’s duties as a company director could, by their very nature, conflict with his duty as an elected councillor.

It said its finding of misconduct should serve as a “signpost” for other councillors when dealing with conflicts of interest in similar circumstances.

It warned that councillor conduct which raises questions about the “legitimacy or motivations in the exercise of their powers” can “undermine public confidence in the entire apparatus of local government”.

The Councillor Conduct Tribunal decision can be found here.

ENDS

Contact OIAmedia@oia.qld.gov.au.

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Last updated: Tuesday, Dec 15, 2020