Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian has warned councillors - and the public.
Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian has warned councillors - and the public.

The councils copping the most complaints

QUEENSLAND'S councillor conduct watchdog says it is struggling to keep up with masses of complaints, as new data shows it has received more than 1000 since January.

Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian has warned councillors vexatious complaints will not be tolerated, as the already busy watchdog braces for an influx in the lead up to the March 2020 local government elections.

Her written warning, obtained by The Courier-Mail, threatens up to $11,000 fines for bad-faith accusations, and reveals the Office of the Independent Assessor is struggling to investigate the high volume of complaints.

The latest Insight report shows of the 1030 complaints received, 630 were dismissed, 74 were referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission, 29 were sent back to council and 17 were subject to Councillor Conduct Tribunal decisions.

Conflict of interest (23 per cent) was the most commonly complained about issue, followed by Breach of the Code of Conduct (17 per cent) and Breach of Trust (13 per cent).

There were 466 complaints from members of the public and 138 from councillors, of the latter, 60 per cent were dismissed.

"In the lead-up to elections, integrity agencies often see an increase in complaints that are lacking in substance, are politicised,or are made for ulterior purposes," Ms Florian said.

"What we seek to avoid is complainants deliberately publishing serious and unsubstantiated or false allegations in the lead-up to the election; for the purpose of unfairly influencing the electorate."

She wrote the number of councillors lodging complaints had begun to increase.

In southeast Queensland, the councils with the most complaints in the past three months were Moreton Bay Region (47), Gold Coast City (27), Redland City (10), Sunshine Coast (6), Noosa (4), Ipswich had one, regarding a former councillor, and Logan had none (Brisbane City is not under OIA's jurisdiction).

In regional Queensland, councils in Greater Brisbane and the Darling Downs had the most complaints last quarter with 31, then Far North councils (30), Wide Bay Burnett councils (16), Torres and Western Cape (12), Central councils (10), North West and Gulf councils (8), South West councils (5), North councils (4), Greater Whitsunday councils (1), while the Far West had none.