Review of councillor complaints process to ensure fair and transparent system

A former Integrity Commissioner will lead an independent panel of local government experts to review how complaints about mayors and councillors are managed to ensure there is a modern, fair, transparent and accountable system.

In announcing the review today, Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning Jackie Trad said the Palaszczuk Government had acted after concerns were raised by local government bodies.

The independent review will thoroughly examine the statutory provisions relating to complaints to assess the effectiveness of the current legislative and policy framework and make recommendations about any policy, legislative and operational changes required to improve the system of dealing with complaints about councillors’ conduct.

“The Palaszczuk Government is committed to ensuring there is public confidence in transparent and accountable local governments,” Ms Trad said.

“This review is about ensuring councillors are held to high standards of ethical and legal behaviour, which puts the public’s interests ahead of any individual interests.

“It’s also about ensuring that when legitimate complaints about councillor conduct are made, they will be dealt with promptly by the appropriate body in accordance with the rules of procedural fairness and natural justice.

“The three-person panel will comprise of former Integrity Commissioner, Dr David Solomon; former CEO of Logan City Council, Gary Kellar; and former Noosa Shire Council Mayor, Noel Playford.

“This panel will work closely with my department and local government to progress the review, and I expect the panel will be ready to hand down their recommendations within six months.”

Ms Trad said the review followed a number of concerns raised by local government bodies.

“Recently, Local Government Managers Australia Queensland wrote to me expressing concerns with the potentially conflicted role of local governments’ chief executive officers in the preliminary assessment and general management of complaints,” Ms Trad said.

“Local Government Association Queensland has also sought changes to the way in which complaints are dealt with under the Local Government Act 2009, particularly the inability to currently seek review of those decisions and the need to better ensure natural justice is afforded to all parties.

“These procedures have not been comprehensively reviewed since they were introduced in 2009, so this review is timely to ensure there is a modern, fair, transparent and accountable system in place to manage complaints.

“We came into government promising to work closely with all Queenslanders to build safe, caring and connected communities. The Government’s partnership with the mayors and councillors of the State’s 77 local governments is critical to the success of Queensland’s diverse communities.”

Ms Trad said following the recent appointment of 40 new mayors and 247 new councillors at the 19 March local government elections, the Queensland Government was rolling out induction sessions to councillors at nearly 60 locations right across the state.

“These seminars will ensure newly elected representatives are supported in their new roles, are clear on their responsibilities, and have a strong understanding of ethical behaviour, including the vital importance of declaring any potential conflict of interest,” Ms Trad said.

“Following on from the Crime and Corruption Commission report into Transparency and Accountability in local government late last year, my department has also ensured this year’s induction program has a strong focus on registers of interest as well as other obligations under the legislation such as properly managing confidential information.”

Councillor Complaints Review Panel Members

Dr David Solomon, former Queensland Integrity Commissioner
Dr Solomon was appointed to a five year term as Queensland’s third Integrity Commissioner and took office on 1 July 2009. Prior to that he was chair of the Independent Panel appointed to review Queensland’s Freedom of Information laws in 2007-8 and chaired the Electoral and Administrative Review Commission in 1992. He is an Adjunct Professor in History at the University of Queensland, a former journalist and is the author of several books in the fields of parliament, politics, the High Court and constitutional law.

Gary Kellar, former CEO Logan City Council
Gary Kellar served for 26 years as Chief Executive Officer of Logan City Council. He has a significant history of academic and professional achievement.  His qualifications include a
Master of Business Administration, a Bachelor of Business (Public Administration) and a Diploma from the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

He was awarded a Public Service Medal in the 1995 Order of Australia Awards, a Centenary of Federation Medal in 2001 and was recognised as Local Government Manager of the Year in 2002.

Noel Playford, former Noosa Shire Council Mayor
Noel Playford is one of Noosa's longest-serving civic leaders. He was Mayor from 1988 to 1997 and then returned to the position to steer the de-amalgamated Noosa Shire Council from 2014 to 2016. He is also a former President of the Local Government Association Queensland. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the 1998 Australia Day honours list.

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