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Understanding complaints

  • The OIA receives complaints about the conduct of all Queensland mayors and councillors.
  • The OIA must assess all complaints it receives.
  • Since establishment, the OIA receives an average of 1,000 complaints a year.
  • The OIA may initiate its own investigations.
  • Complaints assessed as alleged misconduct may be investigated by the OIA and may, following a natural justice process, be referred to the independent Councillor Conduct Tribunal (CCT) to decide.
  • Those assessed as a suspected conduct breach may be referred back to the local government for resolution.
  • Those assessed as corrupt conduct will be referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission.
  • The OIA receives complaints about the conduct of all Queensland councillors.

    The OIA does not deal with complaints about council services such as rates, parking fines, bin collection or noise. The Queensland Ombudsman investigates complaints about the administrative actions and decisions of councils.

    Four types of councillor conduct

    Unsuitable meeting conduct occurs in a council meeting.

    Conduct breach complaints (formerly known as inappropriate conduct) must, by law, be referred to councils for resolution.

    Misconduct complaints are assessed, potentially investigated and undergo a natural justice process before possible referral to the CCT to decide.

    Corrupt conduct is referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission.

    See below for What constitutes a councillor conduct complaint.

    • The OIA cannot enforce confidentiality but we ask all parties to respect it.
    • We ask both complainants and councillors to maintain confidentiality and respect the legislated process for resolving complaints by not publicly revealing the details of a complaint or the existence of an investigation.
    • When a complainant goes public; this is not fair to the councillor; it undermines due process and may cause reputational damage on a matter which may not result in a referral to the CCT or a misconduct finding.
    • When a councillor goes public this is not fair to the complainant; can be perceived as trying to undermine the councillor conduct framework and may encourage complainants to also reveal the complaint for their own purposes.
    • The identity of a complainant will be protected unless disclosure is required for investigations or a tribunal or court hearing. Complainants will be contacted if their identity is likely to be disclosed.
    • If a complainant is making a public interest disclosure the requirements of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 will be followed.
  • Unsuitable meeting conduct

    • Unsuitable meeting conduct is dealt with by the chairperson in the council meeting. The OIA does not deal with unsuitable meeting conduct.
    • It is unsuitable meeting conduct when a councillor, in a council meeting, contravenes the Code of Conduct for Councillors in Queensland.

    Conduct breach

    • Complaints about a suspected conduct breach (formerly inappropriate conduct) can only be assessed by the OIA. If the complaint is assessed as a suspected conduct breach it may be  referred to the council for resolution.
    • It is a conduct breach when a councillor contravenes a behavioural standard (a breach of the councillor code of conduct), or a policy, procedure or resolution of council, an order of the chairperson of a council meeting to leave and stay away, or when a councillor received orders for unsuitable meeting conduct three times in one year.


    • Misconduct complaints are assessed, investigated and a natural justice process is undertaken by the OIA to give the councillor an opportunity to respond to the complaint, before a decision is made to refer a matter to the CCT to decide.
    • Misconduct behaviour includes a breach of an Act, releasing confidential council information and failing to declare a conflict of interest.

    Corrupt conduct

    • Corrupt conduct is dealt with by the Crime and Corruption Commission.
    • Common examples of corrupt conduct include fraud and theft, extortion, misuse of council information for a benefit, or obtaining or offering a secret commission. Corrupt conduct is behaviour that:
      • adversely affects or could adversely affect the performance of functions or the exercise of powers of the councillor; and
      • is not honest or impartial; or
      • results or could result directly or indirectly in the performance of functions or the exercise of a councillor’s powers in a way that is
        • not honest or impartial; or
        • a breach of trust placed in the councillor; or
        • a misuse of information acquired by the councillor; and
    • is engaged in, to the benefit or detriment of a person; and
    • if proven, would be a criminal offence.
    • CEOs, councillors and local government employees who make a complaint or intend to make a complaint against a councillor are protected from acts of reprisal.
    • A councillor who takes, threatens or attempts to take detrimental action against another councillor or council employee for making a complaint or notification, can be fined or imprisoned for two years.
    • If a councillor or a CEO receives a conduct complaint from a member of the public or another councillor, they must refer it to the OIA. Corrupt conduct must be reported to the Crime and Corruption Commission.
    • If a councillor or a CEO becomes aware of information  indicating a councillor may have engaged in suspected conduct breach or alleged misconduct, they must refer it to the OIA.
    • Local governments, through usually the CEO, must give notice to the OIA if a councillor has been disciplined for inappropriate conduct on three occasions in 12 months.

Last updated: 20 Dec 2023