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Statement by the Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian – (former) Cairns Regional councillor decision

20 May 2021

A former Cairns Regional councillor has been cleared of 10 misconduct allegations after admitting she failed to declare a conflict of interest at council meetings spanning three years.

The Councillor Conduct Tribunal (CCT) heard the former councillor failed to declare a conflict of interest at 10 meetings between June 2012 and June 2014, which considered preferred supplier arrangements (PSA) and a number of contracts worth more than $9 million, awarded to two companies linked to an electoral donor.

The CCT heard the director of the two companies was also a director at a third company which had donated $900 to the former councillor in the lead-up to the 2012 elections.

The former councillor listed the donation in her electoral disclosure return that year, but later told the CCT that while she had received the donation in 2012 and recorded it in her return, she did not know who the director of the donor company was, or the connection between the donor and multiple matters considered by council over the three years.

She said she only became aware of the situation when she reviewed her disclosure returns about seven years later in May 2019, and immediately referred herself to the Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA).

In handing down its decision, the CCT found the former councillor had “at the very least a perceived conflict of interest” on each of the 10 allegations against her.

It also noted that she failed to deal with these matters in a transparent and accountable way by not making a declaration which would have enabled both the councillor and the council to deal with the conflict appropriately.

But in dismissing the allegations, the CCT found the former councillor did not breach the trust placed in her as an elected representative, highlighting the action taken once she became aware of the conflict by referring herself to the OIA, identifying previous meetings where she failed to make a declaration, and by declaring her interest at council meetings after May 2019.

It said that while the former councillor’s later behaviour did not excuse her earlier failures, it gave the CCT faith that public confidence in her integrity could be maintained as she did not seek to “shirk” her responsibilities, but instead “confronted them”.

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: Thursday, May 20, 2021