Five councillors and mayors due to be automatically suspended

By Felicity Caldwell
17 May 2018 — 5:43pm

Under laws passed on Thursday night, councillors charged with serious integrity offences - such as bribery, corruption and fraud - will be automatically suspended on full pay, pending the outcome in court.

Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe will now have more powers to sack councils.

Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe will now have more powers to sack councils.

Photo: AAP Image/ Dave Hunt

Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe confirmed five councillors would be affected.

It is understood the provision will affect Logan mayor Luke Smith, Ipswich former mayor Andrew Antoniolli, two members of councils from remote Indigenous communities and one other councillor.

A sixth councillor would have been affected, but was disqualified because of a failure to attend the required number of meetings.

 
Mr Hinchliffe said he was "pretty confident" the councillors involved were aware they would be stood down.

"Because they are indeed clearly integrity offences that they relate to," he said.

The automatic suspension would be lifted if the person was found not guilty or the charges were dismissed.

Mr Hinchliffe will also write to every councillor and mayor in Queensland to advise them of the new rules.

Logan mayor Luke Smith took to social media on Thursday night in response to the new laws.

"So while then (sic) State Government is claiming credit to stop innocent Mayors charged with corruption, the m1 is still a mess at 6:00 pm - what is this government actually doing?" Mr Smith posted on Facebook. 

The powers were among two bills passed through Parliament, which ban donations from property developers at a local and state government level, establish an Office of the Independent Assessor to investigate and deal with misconduct and ban people convicted of integrity offences from being a councillor for up to seven years.

The LNP unsuccessfully tried to also ban political donations by unions.

The bills will come into effect upon assent by the Governor, which could be as early as next week.

The laws also give Mr Hinchliffe more powers to sack councillors, mayors - and dissolve entire councils - "in the public interest".

What is in the public interest will be decided on considerations, such as complying with the law, accountability and transparency, corruption or serious maladministration and not managing conflicts of interest, Mr Hinchliffe said.

Mr Hinchliffe began moves to appoint an administrator at the Ipswich council and asked councillors why they should not be sacked earlier this month after the crime watchdog charged Cr Antoniolli with seven counts of fraud.

Ipswich councillors still have until May 24 to show cause as to why they should not lose their job.

But Mr Hinchliffe would be able to move to sack councillors in Ipswich - should he decide to take that action - as soon as the bill becomes law, rather than waiting for the current show cause period to expire.

That would mean issuing another show cause notice, of between seven to 28 days.

Mr Hinchliffe said the reforms would make mayors, councillors and councils more accountable to their communities.

"There are currently a number of mayors, councillors and council officers in Queensland facing dozens of criminal charges between them," he said.

"The Crime and Corruption Commission has warned there are more charges on the way.

"Our reforms are not designed to catch those who make genuine mistakes, but to deal with the tiny minority not living up to community expectations."

 

Fraser Coast voters choose George Seymour as new Mayor in by-election, replacing sacked councillor, Chris Loft

Updated about 11 hours agoSun 6 May 2018, 3:58pm

Fraser Coast Regional Councillor and acting Mayor, George Seymour, has claimed victory in this weekend's mayoral by-election, and will replace sacked councillor Chris Loft.

With 82 per cent of the vote counted at 1.30pm on Sunday, Cr Seymour holds more than 39 per cent of the vote with just over 23,000 votes — more than twice that of his nearest rival, fellow councillor Darren Everard.

The by-election was unusual in that it was the first time a Mayor had been sacked in Queensland without the whole council being sacked.

Chris Loft was dismissed as Mayor of the Fraser Coast by Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe in February for "serial breaches" of the principles in the Local Government Act.

Speaking outside the Maryborough Town Hall this afternoon, Cr Seymour said the polls were pretty clear.

"I'm feeling good about the result," he said.

Cr Seymour said he now wanted to focus on the future.

"The council needs to improve. I get that," he said.

"The first two years of the council's four year term have been tumultuous, wracked with division and debate.

"We need to unite the council."

Cr Seymour is a member of the ALP. The 38-year-old, softly-spoken Californian went to university in Brisbane before moving to Hervey Bay 14 years ago.

Jobs, region's outer communities a priority

 

Cr Seymour spent Sunday morning in Maryborough for a Labour Day march and the city's Pubfest event, before heading to the region's southernmost town of Glenwood in the afternoon for a progress association meeting.

He vowed not to neglect the region's outer areas, where some residents are resentful of the council's 2008 amalgamation of Hervey Bay City, Maryborough City, Woocoo Shire and most of Tiaro Shire.

Cr Seymour also promised to improve the council's relationship with businesses to tackle the region's unemployment rate, which at 10 per cent is nearly twice the national average.

"The council needs to work really closely with businesses and people who are proposing to invest," Cr Seymour said.

"The last two years have meant that our eyes were taken off that.

"Once we have a stable council we can focus on bigger picture issues.

"I've already started talking to businesses about bringing jobs to the region."

Cr Seymour has also been a vegan for 20 years, eschewing animal products including leather.

"I try to lead a life without harming anyone; human or other types of animals."

'The better man won': defeated mayoral candidate

Fellow councillor Darren Everard conceded defeat, saying "the better man won".

"The man couldn't beat the machine in the end," he said.

"George is a good fella and I'm sure he'll do a good job.

"Tomorrow's a new day and we'll spend it making the Fraser Coast a better place."

Community disillusionment was a common theme in the lead-up to the election.

"The comments I'm getting about the council I really can't say on radio," candidate Paul Forst, a boilermaker, told ABC Wide Bay.

"There's no doubt that the council has lost the respect of the community."

CCC to investigate allegations of corruption relating to Gold Coast City Council decision-making - 2 March 2018

 

The Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) has determined it is in the public interest to advise it has commenced an investigation into allegations of corrupt conduct relating to decision-making by some Gold Coast City Council councillors.

The allegations broadly involve possible conflicts of interests relating to decisions on a range of development matters on the Gold Coast.

The CCC referred some matters in September 2017 to the then Department of Local Government, Infrastructure and Planning to investigate subject to the CCC’s monitoring role.

The CCC has since considered an interim report from the Department.

The allegations, which raise a reasonable suspicion of corrupt conduct, will now be investigated by the CCC.

It is important to note that all allegations should be treated as unsubstantiated until the investigation is finalised.

Whilst the investigation is progressing, the CCC is unable to comment further. This includes not commenting on specific developments or decisions of the Council that are the subject of the investigation.

--ENDS--

Logan Council CEO reinstated

Sharon Kelsey has told the ABC she will resume work as Logan City Council CEO on May 14, after councillors voted seven to five in February to sack her.

Dissenting Logan councillor Darren Power said at that time he believed she was fired illegally.

Logan City Mayor Luke Smith, who has also been charged with official corruption by the CCC, did not take part in the vote to sack Ms Kelsey.

There is no suggestion Ms Kelsey has been under investigation by the CCC.

The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) decided Ms Kelsey should return to work on an interim basis.

Ms Kelsey is also making an application for a full re-instatement, which will be heard before the QIRC in late July.

Ipswich council and others can expect to face more charges, CCC chairman says

Updated Fri at 5:46pmFri 4 May 2018, 5:46pm

Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) chairman Alan MacSporran says more charges are likely to be laid as part of investigations into councils in Ipswich and elsewhere.

He was speaking outside State Parliament after the Queensland Government demanded Ipswich councillors show cause why they should not be sacked as the region's corruption scandal widens.

The CCC charged Mayor Andrew Antoniolli with seven counts of fraud on Wednesday.

 

A total of 12 people from Ipswich Council, also including former mayor Paul Pisasale and two council CEOs, are facing 66 charges amid a series of ongoing CCC investigations.

"You can expect more charges," Mr MacSporran said.

"I'm not going to discuss any further operational details but I can tell the public that the investigation, which has gone for some considerable time, is nearing its completion so far as the investigation into corrupt conduct goes."

He said there were 226 corrupt conduct complaints received from the local government sector in the reporting period from last August until February this year, a 38 per cent increase on the previous 12 months.

Mr MacSporran said the CCC also continued to investigate other councils, including the Gold Coast.

"I'm not prepared to discuss what they involve but they'll speak for themselves when we take action, if we do," he said.

"Gold Coast is about to start. There's plenty of evidence of complaints being made about the Gold Coast City Council and its functioning."

Also on Friday, former Fraser Coast mayor Chris Loft lost his Supreme Court bid to have his sacking overturned.

Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe sacked Mr Loft in February for misconduct.

Speaking outside court in Brisbane, Mr Loft said he was disappointed by the ruling.

"I can put my hand on my heart and say that everything I've done was with the best of intentions and for the ultimate benefit of the community that elected me and that I've been proud to serve as well as the staff on the council who were hurting," he said.

"With the benefit of hindsight, some of the decisions I've made have perhaps been naive."

Ipswich City Council mayor Andrew Antoniolli resigns, entire council dropped

HOURS after its mayor stood down because of corruption charges, the entire Ipswich City Council has been dropped.

AAPMay 3, 201810:46am
 

THE Queensland government will appoint an administrator at Ipswich City Council amid a widening corruption scandal that has seen a dozen people charged and the council facing the sack.

Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe announced the move in state parliament on Thursday, a day after Mayor Andrew Antoniolli, the second major to be charged, was slapped with seven fraud offences by the Crime and Corruption Commission.

Mr Antoniolli, who will front court later this month, denied any wrongdoing and initially said he wouldn’t stand down, but changed his mind on Thursday morning.

Former Ipswich Mayor Andrew Antoniolli.

Former Ipswich Mayor Andrew Antoniolli.Source:Supplied

Mr Hinchliffe will also ask the entire council to show cause as to why it should not be disbanded.

“The impacts we’ve already seen are devastating, on the moral of council staff, including on the personal well-being of individuals and on council’s ability to deliver good policy outcomes and on the Ipswich community as a whole,” he told state parliament.

“I have reached the conclusion that Ipswich City Council can no longer function effectively.” Twelve people, including two mayors and two chief executive officers, are facing a total of 66 charges from the CCC’s investigations into the council. Mr Hinchliffe will next week ask Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s cabinet to consider strengthening his legislative powers to dismiss councils when they lose the trust of communities.

“I believe this course of action is necessary to restore public confidence in the Ipswich City Council,” he said.

Ms Palaszczuk said too many charges had been levelled at too many officials for the council to maintain confidence.

“Enough is enough,” she said.

“This will stop and I am stopping it.” Mr Antoniolli, elected in August on a platform of integrity and transparency, is alleged to have used council funds for his own use for five years until May 2017 to buy auction items from charities.

Rogue local Labor MP Jo-Ann Miller applauded Mr Hinchliffe’s move on Thursday but said more needed to be done to clean up the Labor-affiliated council. “The community is saying to me that they’ve had enough, they’ve had a gutful of all of this,” she told ABC Radio on Thursday.

“They’re saying that the stench does not only come from the dumps in Ipswich, it’s also coming from the council.”

QLD COUNCIL CORRRUPTION

Logan Mayor accused of corruption over power boat allegedly received from campaign donor

Updated 26 Mar 2018, 5:24pmMon 26 Mar 2018, 5:24pm

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Video: Logan Mayor Luke Smith was charged at the Beenleigh watch house. (ABC News)

A charge of official corruption against Logan City Mayor Luke Smith centres on allegations he received a luxury boat from a Chinese developer who donated tens of thousands of dollars to his election campaign fund, the ABC can reveal.

 

Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) officers today charged Councillor Smith with three offences: official corruption, perjury and failing to correct his register of interests.

This morning, Cr Smith was taken to the Beenleigh watch house, south of Brisbane, and later granted bail.

He is expected to appear in the Beenleigh Magistrates Court on April 17.

In a statement after his release, Cr Smith said he would be vigorously defending the charges laid by the CCC.

"For the past year I have been willingly and openly assisting the CCC with their investigation as part of Operation Belcarra," he said.

"To this day I have not been given the details of the allegations sitting behind these charges but I will be absolutely fighting this to the end."

Operation Belcarra was set up to investigate the conduct of candidates in four south-east Queensland councils, including Logan, during the 2016 local government elections.

Logan remains the only Queensland council still under investigation.

 

The CCC will allege Cr Smith "knowingly gave false testimony at a public hearing related to Operation Belcarra".

The ABC understands the charges of official corruption and failing to correct his register of interests relate to allegations Cr Smith received the boat from a Chinese developer.

The same developer donated tens of thousands of dollars to Cr Smith's election campaign fund, known as Logan Futures.

Earlier this month, CCC investigators executed a search warrant on a Gold Coast boat seller seeking documents relating to the sale by Cr Smith of the 2012 model Sea Ray 240 Sundeck.

The Sea Ray 240 Sundeck can carry 10 passengers and features a forward-boarding ladder, cockpit wet bar and stereo system.

The CCC was investigating how much, if anything, Cr Smith paid for the luxury boat.

The ABC understands Cr Smith sold the boat last year.

Cr Smith said given the situation and nature of the charges, he would not be commenting on the boat issue, and would allow the legal process to run its course.

 

The CCC told the ABC it was "unable to comment about matters that are before the court. The investigation into Logan City Council remains ongoing."

Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe would not comment on whether Cr Smith would be stood aside.

"I'm seeking further advice around a range of matters, but I don't believe that I do have the powers to stand aside the Mayor, because of these matters that are unproven, matters that are before the courts," he said.

 

"The Palaszczuk Government is absolutely committed to delivering reform to local government, because we know there is a cloud hanging over local government in Queensland, because of a range of and a number of issues.

"That's not fair to the vast majority of mayors and councillors across the state.

"We've got to see reform, reforms that make changes to local government to ensure that it can be returned to that place of respect in our community, and that very important role that it has in delivering good governance to the people of Queensland."

Logan City Council released a statement after Cr Smith was charged.

"Logan City Council is aware that officers from the CCC visited council's administration building on Monday morning (March 26) in relation to an ongoing investigation," the statement said.

"Council's duty of care remains with the community and its staff.

"Council respects the ongoing legal process and will continue to cooperate with all CCC-related matters."

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Video: A review of the Sea Ray 240 Sundeck (ABC News)

 

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First posted 26 Mar 2018, 11:25amMon 26 Mar 2018, 11:25am