Council cleared on Jewel development misconduct complaints
THE Office of the Independent Assessor has cleared Bundaberg Regional Council and its councillors of any wrongdoing in the handling of the Bargara Jewel development.
The OIA stepped in back in May, investigating several complaints of alleged conflicts of interest and allegations that council's vote for the controversial development was manipulated to result in a deemed approval.
Independent Assessor, Kathleen Florian told the NewsMail yesterday that she had dismissed seven complaints made against three councillors after finding "no evidence of misconduct".
"The OIA investigation also found no evidence of any collusion or manipulation of councillors to pre-determine the vote that led to the deemed approval of the development," Ms Florian said.
"Two councillors declared conflicts of interest that were appropriately disclosed or raised in the council meeting and those councillors were excluded from the meeting and did not vote on the development." Ms Florian said there was no evidence that any other councillor had any interaction with the Bargara Jewel developer other than in an "official capacity".
"While it is the OIA's responsibility to hold councillors to account who would commit misconduct, it is also important, in appropriate circumstances, for the OIA to address complaints that have been made public but have not been sustained," she said.
"This is also a necessary part of strengthening trust in local government."
The investigation was opened several months after Planning Minister Cameron Dick called-in the development in December.
At the time of the call-in, Mr Dick alleged it was "clear the Bundaberg Regional Council did not consider this application in accordance with proper planning process".
At that time, council said it did not agree with the Minister's commentary but would assist with the process.
Council late yesterday declined to comment further on the Assessor's decision. Mr Dick ruled the project could go ahead at six storeys, instead of the initially proposed nine.