Councillor self-refers for investigation after complaint
A FRASER Coast councillor has referred himself to be investigated by the Department of Local Government after a complaint regarding an alleged conflict of interest was raised.
The complaint stems from alleged misconduct by councillor Stuart Taylor during a council vote on a tender for the Sport Precinct clubhouse.
During the vote, in which Cr Taylor had declared a real conflict of interest at the start of the meeting, he stood outside the chamber door while a division over the vote was taking place.
Councillors had already voted on the item during confidential when Cr Taylor was not present.
A vote division can occur when a councillor wants the minutes to show how individual councillors voted on the matter.
The conflict of interest relates to his role as the president of Football Queensland Wide Bay.
Cr Taylor said he was "confident" he had acted ethically and done no wrong.
He told the Chronicle he had asked Fraser Coast CEO Ken Diehm to refer the matter to the Department of Local Government to ensure "that it is dealt with transparently and in the public interest".
"I stopped outside the door and waited for the division to be counted, I did not enter the room or the public seating area until the division was recorded by the minute taker," Cr Taylor said in a statement.
"The Local Government Act states that, when dealing with a real conflict of interest a councillor must 'leave the meeting room (including any area set aside for the public) and stay out of the meeting room while the matter is being discussed and voted on.'
"At the time this matter was discussed and voted on, I left the room, including any place set aside for the public.
"I am confident that I have acted ethically and in compliance with the Local Government Act and look forward to having the matter resolved.
Fraser Coast CEO Ken Diehm said the council could not make any statement in relation to matters that may be subject to a complaint.
Read Cr Taylor's full statement below:
At the Ordinary Council meeting on 26 September 2018, Council moved a resolution relating to the construction of a Clubhouse at the Fraser Coast Precinct. Prior to the meeting I declared a real conflict of interest as I am the President of Football Queensland Wide Bay. The Minutes of the meeting state:
Pursuant to Section 175E(2) of the Local Government Act 2009 Councillor Taylor declared a real conflict of interest in Item ORD 16.2.1 ‐ Fraser Coast Sports Precinct Clubhouse Tender Award.
(a) The nature of Councillor Taylor's interest is that he is the President of Football Queensland Wide Bay Ltd which is a non‐for‐profit organisation referred to in the report for an application for a new lease and therefore related to the tender for the clubhouse for Football Queensland Wide Bay Ltd.
(b) Councillor Taylor said that Football Queensland Wide Bay Ltd would benefit from this decision.
(c) Councillor Taylor said that he would deal with the conflict by leaving the meeting while this matter is discussed and voted on.
When this matter came up for discussion, it was in the confidential section of the meeting. At that point I left the room, with the minutes showing I left the room at 12:53pm. The doors were closed while this matter was being discussed and I returned back to the meeting at 1:11pm, when the doors were re-opened. The vote was not dealt with at that time as Councillors can't vote in the confidential section of the meeting.
Council then dealt with five other matters before returning to vote on the Sports Precinct tender. The minutes show I left the room at 1:15pm and returned at 1:17pm. When I left the room, I retired into the Councillor room and waited for a very short time until being advised that the matter had been voted on. I then walked back to the room, when I heard a Councillor call for a division (this occurs AFTER the vote and only if a Councillor wishes for the minutes to show how individual Councillors voted on a matter). I stopped outside the door and waited for the division to be counted. I did not enter the room or the public seating area until the division was recorded by the minute taker.
The successful resolution stated "That Council award the contract for the Clubhouse Tender to Ausco Modular Pty Ltd for the Guaranteed Maximum Price of $1,374,822.74 excluding GST. 3:" and that "Council delegate authority to the Chief Executive Officer to negotiate the contract terms with Ausco Modular Pty Ltd". Carried (8/2)
FOR: Councillor Seymour; Councillor Everard; Councillor Maddern; Councillor Lewis; Councillor Truscott; Councillor Light; Councillor Sanderson; Councillor O'Keefe.
AGAINST: Councillor Hansen; Councillor Chapman.
Since this vote I have heard of a number of people on social media suggesting that my behaviour was misconduct as I did not 'properly' leave the room. This is not the case. The Local Government Act states that, when dealing with a real conflict of interest a Councillor must "leave the meeting room (including any area set aside for the public) and stay out of the meeting room while the matter is being discussed and voted on". At the time this matter was discussed and voted on, I left the room, including any place set aside for the public.
On hearing these accusations, I advised the CEO of the nature of the allegations made and asked the CEO to refer this matter to the Department of Local Government to ensure that it is dealt with transparently and in the public interest. I am confident that I have acted ethically and in compliance with the Local Government Act and look forward to having the matter resolved.
As I am writing this post, someone has sent a copy of another post from a member of the public that suggests that the company that was successful in this tender, Ausco Modular, are sponsors of Football Queensland. This is not something that I am aware of as I am not a Board Member of Football Queensland. I am a Board Member of Football Queensland Wide Bay, who has no relationship with Ausco Modular. In any event, I did not vote on this tender nor was I involved in the decision-making process in any way.