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Statement by the Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian – Former Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire mayor decision

23 March 2021

Former Woorabinda mayor Cheyne Wilkie has been formally reprimanded by the Councillor Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for engaging in serious and unacceptable misconduct during his time in office.

In all, the CCT upheld eight allegations against Mr Wilkie, finding he:

  • used discriminatory and offensive language in the workplace (two allegations)
  • failed to declare conflicts of interests (four allegations)
  • failed to maintain an accurate register of interests (one allegation)
  • acted beyond his authority in directing a council employee to do maintenance work (one allegation).

It fined Mr Wilkie $4665, ordered him to publicly admit to his behaviour, and formally reprimanded him.

The CCT found Mr Wilkie used discriminatory, derogatory and/or offensive language towards a council employee and a council consultant in the workplace, rejecting his defence that he was joking.

It noted that the way the mayor conducted himself set the tone for other councillors and staff to emulate.

It also found Mr Wilkie failed to declare conflicts of interest at council meetings which considered four matters relating to the proposed divestment of council programs and services, and other benefits to a corporation known as Yoonthalla.

Prior to becoming mayor, Mr Wilkie helped to establish Yoonthalla as a single entity designed to receive state and federal funding and to deliver the programs and services needed by the Woorabinda community.

Mr Wilkie had previously been a director of the corporation, while his wife and her daughter were Yoonthalla directors at the time of the meetings in question.

Mr Wilkie also failed to transparently disclose his wife’s position as a director of Yoonthalla on a register of interests, as required by law.

The CCT upheld a further allegation that Mr Wilkie directed a council worker to undertake maintenance work, assuming an operational role that was not consistent with the legislated responsibilities of a mayor or councillor.

The CCT decision can be found here.

The CCT also dismissed six allegations against a councillor who was not identified as the allegations were not upheld.

They related to the alleged use of discriminatory and/or derogatory language in a work context, as well as an alleged failure to comply with a council policy in relation to the acceptable requests that could be made of council employees.

In relation to the allegations about the councillor’s language, the CCT was not satisfied that the evidence met the requisite standard of proof as statements were disputed by the councillor and some witnesses.

ENDS

Media contact: 0477 385 727 or OIAmedia@oia.qld.gov.au.

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Last updated: Tuesday, Mar 23, 2021