New councillor complaints office opens

The Office of the Independent Assessor starts work today as the new body to receive, assess, investigate and prosecute complaints about councillor conduct in Queensland.

From today it will take approximately 60 current complaints that are under investigation or are awaiting assessment.

It also marks the start of the new Code of Conduct for Councillors to enforce higher standards of behaviour from local government representatives.

Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe welcomed the OIA which is headed up by respected crime investigator Kathleen Florian as the inaugural Independent Assessor.

“This is the start of a new era of accountability, integrity and transparency as we rebuild the community’s faith and trust in local government,” Mr Hinchliffe said.

“The Independent Assessor has the power to investigate and determine genuine complaints more effectively and efficiently while being able to quickly dismiss vexatious complaints.

“The new Code of Conduct has a strong focus on the three ‘R’s – that councillors carry out their responsibilities conscientiously, they treat people in a respectful way and ensure their conduct does not reflect adversely on the reputation of the council.”

The Code is backed by a range of penalties including reprimands, orders for counselling and reimbursement of costs.

Ms Florian said the OIA’s job is 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 will be my priority to resolve the transition matters and ensure that the councillor conduct system is effective, timely and balanced,” Ms Florian said.

“With new powers to address early complaints that are vexatious, frivolous or not in good faith, the focus of the OIA will be on complaints of more serious allegations of misconduct.”

The OIA will work with the new Councillor Complaints Tribunal and the Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs to provide councillors with advice, training and information.

The Code applies to all Councils, except Brisbane City Council which has a separate Code.

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