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Statement by the Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian – (former) Townsville City councillor decision

12 August 2021

Former Townsville City councillor Paul Jacob has been found to have engaged in misconduct while in office by releasing confidential information.

The Councillor Conduct Tribunal (CCT) delivered its finding after hearing Mr Jacob disclosed preliminary budget information to a journalist in April 2019.

The information subsequently appeared in a media article in May 2019.

While Mr Jacob admitted to releasing the details, he told the CCT he did so out of a mistaken but genuine belief that confidentiality requirements only applied to formal documentary information.

The CCT did not accept Mr Jacob’s position, noting if his belief was correct, a councillor could convey any confidential information to a third party without penalty “as long as the communication was in oral form”.

It also pointed out that council’s confidentiality policy contained sections that specifically described preliminary budget information as confidential, “which was exactly the kind of information the councillor disclosed”.

In handing down the disciplinary orders, the CCT acknowledged that Mr Jacob was no longer in office and that he had co-operated with the investigation into his conduct by the Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA).

It fined Mr Jacob $250 and ordered him to make a public admission of misconduct at a council meeting that is open to the public.

While the CCT acknowledged that Mr Jacob may have reflected upon the gravity of his conduct, it said it was important that this reflection occur in the public sphere so that the public continues to have strong faith in local government decision-making.

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, Aug 12, 2021