Acting Mayor slams corruption allegations

UPDATE1PM: ACTING Lockyer Valley Mayor Tanya Milligan has welcomed the Crime and Corruption Commission's findings into the Grantham Land Swap Project.

The CCC today released a statement clearing late Mayor Steve Jones and any employee of Lockyer Valley Regional Council of wrongdoing with regards to the land-swap process - initiated in the wake of the 2011 floods.

In a statement released this morning, Cr Milligan said she was not surprised by the findings and that the allegations were brought forward in a lead-up to an election in an effort to smear the reputation of the late Mayor and Council.

"The disgusting timing of the allegations and the public airing of them just a day before Steve's funeral took a real emotional toll on Steve's family and the Council organisation as a whole at an already sad time for all involved," she said.

"I am pleased that the CCC has moved swiftly to throw out these allegations and show them to be baseless and untruthful which is something we as a Council organisation already knew.

"The unfounded allegations of impropriety around the Grantham land-swap process were simply offensive, especially given the project was one of the most innovative and forward-thinking initiatives ever adopted in Australia following a natural disaster.

"What's more, it was pleasing to see the CCC slam the public airing of these allegations before they had a proper chance to assess them and throw them out."

Cr Milligan said she was happy that the late Mayor's family could move on and that Steve Jones could rest in peace.

EARLIER: THE state's corruption watchdog has officially cleared Lockyer Valley Regional Council and its late mayor of any wrongdoing in relation to the Grantham land swap.

The Crime and Corruption Commission investigation was triggered by a complaint received from a local resident on April 20 last year, alleging that council had engaged in corruption by swapping vacant land at Mt Sylvia for blocks on the new Grantham site, benefiting associates of then-Mayor Steve Jones.

In a statement released this morning, the CCC - in clearing Lockyer Valley Regional Council - was also critical of the complainant for publicising the investigation before it was finalised.

The CCC said the complaint was originally assessed as not worth further action.

"This assessment relied primarily on the fact that the Queensland Audit Office (QAO) had conducted extensive auditing of the project and had not raised any issues of corrupt conduct," the statement said.

"An internal CCC review of the matter, however, determined that it was relevant to note that the QAO had flagged questions that were at the core of the complainant's concerns - that is, whether a land swap was provided to a business and whether businesses were eligible for the land swap if there was no house involved. On 9 October 2015 the CCC resolved to refer the matter for investigation."

The subsequent investigation involved council, the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning, the Queensland Reconstruction Authority, Queensland Audit Office and the Department of Natural Resources and Mines.

The complainant and council CEO were also interviewed.

The CCC ultimately found that the ballot process was handled by a specialist firm, with no involvement by council. Any amendments to the Lockyer Valley Land Offer policy were also required to obtain prior Ministerial approval.

"All of the contracts of sale were prepared and executed by an independent legal firm on behalf of the LVRC," the CCC stated.

"The swapping of vacant land comprised nearly 23% of all swapped allotments and was approved under the CEO's delegated authority.

"All vacant land swapped by the alleged associates of the mayor was subject to the above independent process and accordingly the CCC concluded that there was no reasonable suspicion of corrupt conduct.

"Regrettably this is another example of an allegation of corrupt conduct being made public before the CCC has had the opportunity to assess the matter and determine whether there was any merit in investigating the allegation. As the CCC stated at the commencement of the local government election period, it is best if people bring their complaints to the CCC confidentially."

The QT is awaiting a response from Lockyer Valley Regional Council.

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