The first Scenic Rim Regional Council meeting for 2023 was punctuated with familiar personality clashes, however there was optimism the appointment of an Advisor is a step in the right direction.
Advisor Gary Stevenson, appointed by the State Government to help Council address conflicts of interest, inappropriate conduct matters and meeting procedures, was at the 24 January Ordinary Meeting. Rebecca McAnalen from the Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning was also there, seated in the public gallery.
Five minutes into the almost 7-hour meeting, Cr Derek Swanborough had it adjourned to seek CEO advice about a conflict-of-interest declaration, which he said Councillors had just received a printed handout about and he wanted it revised.
When the meeting resumed, discussions continued in stilted fashion, and it took about an hour before Council started considering the actual business of the meeting.
CEO David Keenan cut five Inappropriate Conduct matters from the agenda, citing ‘new information’ of a ‘highly confidential’ nature, received in the 48 hours before the meeting.
“I’ve taken legal advice on the recent development and the advice I’ve received is that the only course to adopt today to both preserve Councillor Swanborough’s entitlement to natural justice and the ability of Council at some point in the future to deal with these five items of business is to defer consideration of these… to a future Council meeting,” he said.
In a Mayoral Minute titled Declarations and Suspicions of Conflicts of Interest, noting advice from the Office of the Independent Assessor, Mayor Greg Christensen said he expected Councillors to ‘adhere to the underlying legislative obligations bestowed upon us all’.
The Scenic Rim’s longest-serving elected representative, Division 3 Cr Virginia West, said the appointment of an Advisor was a step in the right direction.
“Gary has come to us to ensure we get the governance of our Council meetings correct, and I’m looking positively to the future – we’re all going to have to work at it,” she said.
“As a Councillor for 19 years I’ve never had to deal with this before and looking toward 2023 we need to focus on the business of Council that we’re elected to do by our residents.”