Changes to go before parliament this week will see mayors or councillors charged with serious integrity offences automatically suspended with pay.
The changes give local government ministers the ability to dismiss or suspend charged councillors or mayors. Naturally, suspensions will be lifted if the person is found not guilty or the charges are dropped.
This leaves the Mayor of Australia’s sixth largest council in a bit more than a spot of trouble…
Official corruption and perjury are illegal offences by Queensland Law.
Following a lengthy investigation by the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC), code-named Operation Belcarra, which looked into the conduct of four south-east Queensland councils during the 2016 local government elections — a charge of official corruption was laid against Logan Mayor Luke Smith.
This is based on allegations that he received a luxury boat from a Chinese developer, who also donated tens of thousands of dollars to his election campaign fund, as reported by the ABC.
And according to government sources quoted by the ABC, as soon as these changes to ministerial powers pass through Queensland’s Parliament, Mayor Smith is likely to be suspended.
Logan Mayor vows to strongly defend the charges
Local government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said last week at a local Government Association of Queensland conference, that current laws need to change.
‘Frankly it’s become apparent that there are some significant shortcomings in the current legislation.
‘Shortcomings that have limited the state’s ability to deal with individuals in local government that have let the rest of you down.’
Ipswich mayor Andrew Antoniolli is another target for the CCC. After being charged with seven counts of fraud on 2 May, he stood down the next day.
All up, the CCC has made 13 arrests during its investigation of Ipswich City Council. So far, 12 people — including two Mayors and two CEOs — are facing a sum of 66 charges.
Including Paul Pisasale, an Ipswich councillor whose campaign centred on transparency and good governance, with his first policy move introducing new integrity measures for councillors. Now he is charged with a range of offences, including corruption.
Minister Hinchcliffe gave Ipswich councillors 21 days to show reason as to why they shouldn’t be dismissed. And hinted at using the new powers of the council once they pass the Parliament and come into effect.
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