Councillor misconduct complaints swamp watchdog
QUEENSLAND'S new council watchdog has launched more than 120 councillor misconduct investigations in just three months amid a huge influx of complaints to the body.
The Courier-Mail can reveal almost 500 complaints have been received by the Office of the Independent Assessor since it was established to take over the investigation of councillor complaints in December.
That is more than three times the number of complaints the watchdog - which has similar powers to the Crime and Misconduct Commission - was anticipated to receive in a year with misuse of information and personal interest breaches dominating.
Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian said of the 495 complaints received, 121 are under active investigation for suspected misconduct.
A further four complaints have been referred to the councillor conduct tribunal for a ruling with 20 pending possible referral. About 202 complaints have been dismissed
Ms Florian has described the misuse of social media as a "live issue" with councillors finding themselves before her and her investigative team for misuse of social media such as Facebook, including setting up pages to criticise other councillors.
"I think social media is problematic for councillors as well, particularly in terms of how they use and manage social media and stay within the councillor code of conduct," she said.
A new social media guide is being drawn up for councillors to follow.
Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe seized on the influx of complaints to highlight the need for further council reforms.
She urged the public to be patient as the body grapples with the large number of complaints with a request for more resources pending.
Mr Hinchliffe said the Government was keeping an eye on the resourcing needs of the body.