News State QLD News Ratepayers told to ‘put their money where their mouth is’ with $200 fee to make a complaint against council

Ratepayers told to ‘put their money where their mouth is’ with $200 fee to make a complaint against council

Mount Isa City Council votes in favour of a $200 fee to lodge complaints about councillors. Photo: ABC North West Queensland/Kelly Butterworth
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A regional council’s chief executive officer has put forward a motion to charge residents to make complaints regarding corruption and fraud against councillors.

Mount Isa City Council’s CEO David Keenan put forward the item in a council meeting today, which was argued extensively, with only Mayor Danielle Slade voting against the proposal.

Now that it is supported, the Mount Isa City Council will submit a formal motion to the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) annual conference this year where it will need to be voted up for it to become policy.

In a letter attached to the agenda of the meeting to be sent to LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam, Mr Keenan wrote that the council had spent more than $105,000 since January this year investigating complaints.

The full letter addressed to LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam. Photo: Supplied/Mount Isa City Council

Mayor’s sole vote against

Cr Slade said she believed the fee would make some of the community feel they could not afford to complain about a councillor’s acts.

Mount Isa City Council Mayor Danielle Slade was the only councillor to vote against the fee. Photo: ABC North West Queensland/Kelly Butterworth

“I would hate to see someone with financial difficulties not put in a complaint,” she said.

“I still think we’re basically saying we want to make it a little bit more difficult to put in a complaint against ourselves, which doesn’t sit well with me.”

In the written submission to Mr Hallam, Mr Keenan outlined what complaints would incur the fee.

“Mount Isa City Council therefore proposes, for your consideration and support, the application of a fee to lodge a complaint that relates to serious matters including corrupt conduct, fraud, misconduct, maladministration and councillor conduct,” Mr Keenan wrote.

“An application fee of $200 per complaint is proposed.

“Where the complaint is substantiated or partly substantiated, council would refund the application fee in full to the complainant.”

Cr Slade said the item had been discussed earlier with all councillors present and she was not surprised by the outcome of the vote.

Anonymous complaints an issue

Councillor Mick Tully said $105,000 had been spent since January this year investigating complaints — none of which had been proven true.

Mount Isa City Councillor Mick Tully voted in support of the $200 fee to lodge a complaint against a councillor. Photo: ABC North West Queensland/Kelly Butterworth

“I think with a fee it will dis-encourage people to make complaints that are false,” Cr Tully said.

“Because the complaints are anonymous we don’t know if it’s one person or not, from what we’re seeing it’s four or five complaints against all the councillors in one go.

“That tends to make me think that it’s all coming from one person.”

Cr Tully said he hoped the motion would be passed at the LGAQ annual conference.

“I’m pretty sure the majority of local government councillors … will certainly encourage that fee to be in place,” he said.

“I think if someone is very set on a complaint that is not fictitious, I think $200 is not hard to find.”

Councillor Kim Coghlan also spoke in support of the fee.

“People need to put their money where their mouth is,” she said.

“If it’s proven to be correct, you get your money back.”

A spokesperson for the LGAQ said all motions put forward at the annual conference would be considered and debated.

“Individual councils and groups of councils submit motions on matters of local and regional importance for debate at our annual conference,” they said.