Understanding conduct complaints
The OIA was formed to hold councillors who would commit misconduct to account, for the benefit of the community and the benefit of all councillors who are trying to do the right thing.
It investigates complaints about all Queensland councillors.
The OIA does not investigate council services such as rates, parking fines, bin collection or noise complaints.
It only receives complaints about the conduct of individual councilors that is either inappropriate conduct or misconduct.
Inappropriate conduct includes when a councillor contravenes the Councillor code of conduct (PDF, 150KB), council policy or a policy, procedure or resolution of council.
Conduct assessed by the OIA as inappropriate conduct will generally be referred to the relevant local government for investigation and or to be otherwise dealt with.
Misconduct is when a councillor is dishonest or biased in the exercise of their powers. The behaviour includes releasing information confidential to council, breaches of trust, giving directions to council employees and failing to report suspected conflicts of interest of other councilors.
The OIA can also deal with the following sorts of matters either on a disciplinary basis, or in serious cases, as a magistrates court criminal prosecution:
- use/misuse of council information to obtain a benefit or cause a detriment
- failure to properly declare or appropriately deal with conflicts of interest or material personal interest
- councillors with conflicts of interest or material personal interest influencing or attempting to influence another councillor
- retaliation or reprisal against complainants in councillor conduct matters
- obstructing the OIA
- providing false or misleading information to the OIA
See our prosecution guidelines for circumstances in which the OIA may elect to prosecute criminally.
The OIA can not only dismiss frivolous and vexatious complaints and complaints that are not made in good faith, but there is now also a criminal offence under the Local Government Act 2009 for persons to make complaints that frivolous, vexatious or not in good faith.
These offences have been introduced to balance the need to hold councillors to account with the need to ensure that the complaints system is not misused or politicised.
Corrupt conduct is referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission. Common examples of corrupt conduct include fraud and theft, extortion, unauthorised release of information, obtaining or offering a secret commission and nepotism.
The Queensland Ombudsman investigates complaints about the actions and decisions of councils and other bodies.
If a councillor receives a conduct complaint from a member of the public or another councillor they must refer it to the Independent Assessor. Corrupt conduct must be reported to the Crime and Corruption Commission.
If a councillor becomes aware of another councillor engaging in inappropriate conduct or misconduct they must refer it to the Independent Assessor.
Local governments, usually the chief executive officer or mayor, must give notice to the Independent Assessor if a councillor has been disciplined for inappropriate conduct on three occasions in a 12 month period.
The local government must notify the Independent Assessor if it has made an order about a particular type of conduct engaged in by a councillor. It will be dealt with as misconduct if the local government reasonably suspects that a councillor has engaged in the same type of conduct.
What constitutes a councillor conduct complaint?
Councillor conduct is divided into four categories:
1. Unsuitable meeting conduct
Unsuitable meeting conduct is handled by a council in the council meeting. It is unsuitable meeting conduct when a councillor, in a council meeting, contravenes the code of conduct or a council policy.
2. Inappropriate conduct
Inappropriate conduct must be referred by councils to the Independent Assessor. It is inappropriate conduct 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 is handled by the Independent Assessor, with the complaint heard by the Councillor Conduct Tribunal. It is misconduct when a councillor is dishonest or biased in the exercise of their powers.
Behaviours categorised as misconduct include:
- breaches of trust
- misuse of information or material acquired in or in connection with the performance of the councillor’s function for the benefit or detriment of the councillor or another person
- giving directions to local government employees
- releasing information confidential to council
- failing to report suspected conflicts of interest of other councillors
- failing to comply with an order of the council or the Councillor Conduct Tribunal
- failing to comply with acceptable request guidelines of the council
- failing to comply with a council policy about the reimbursement of expenses
- being disciplined for inappropriate conduct three times in one year.
4. Corrupt conduct
Corrupt conduct is handled by the Crime and Corruption 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.
Last updated: Wednesday, Dec 16, 2020