The watchdog overseeing the upcoming council elections has issued a bold warning.
The watchdog overseeing the upcoming council elections has issued a bold warning.

VOTERS BEWARE: Council watchdog slams baseless allegations

THE independent council watchdog has told voters to be "very cautious" when it comes to claims made by Division 4 candidate Jamie Hoolahan against his sitting rival Daniel Sanderson.  

It comes after Mr Hoolahan shared posts on social media in which old complaints about the awarding of a $3000 council contract to Cr Sanderson's wife Sotik re-surfaced.

The original complaints related to unfounded concerns about whether Mrs Sanderson had the relevant qualifications to fulfil the writing contract and if Cr Sanderson had influenced the process.

Posts about the same topic were shared months after the Independent Assessor found there was no evidence to support any allegations of wrongdoing by Cr Sanderson.

Screenshots of the posts were sent by Cr Sanderson as part of a review request to the recently formed Independent Council Election Observer on December 11.

Retired Brisbane judge John Robertson was appointed as ICEO.

In his decision, released on Wednesday, Mr Robertson noted one of the posts on Mr Hoolahan's page, dated October 11, accused Cr Sanderson "inferentially of corruption over a $3000 contract his wife had with Council".

"When posting or reposting the posts the subject of the review request, Mr. Hoolahan was well aware that the allegations in the posts were the subject of a full investigation by the Office of Independent Assessor in April 2019, concluding in a finding that there was no evidence to support the allegations and no evidence of any inappropriate conduct on the part of Cr. Sanderson," Mr Robertson said 

 "When the ICEO obtained an email address for Mr. Hoolahan we emailed him on the 23 December 2019 and included a copy of the original request and attachments which included a screenshot of Council's complaint register which recorded the finding of the OIA referenced to above. His reply (on the same day) was as follows:

The posts that Daniel sandersons (sic) claims i (sic) have made him look "bad" were comments made by other (sic) I merely reposted others comments because as daniel will admit the posts claims are true. Even daniel has admitted  this . I will remove the comments from my page . Daniel sanderson knows the original comments were not made by me.

"I uphold the review request made by Cr. Sanderson. Voters should be very cautious when considering any claims made by Candidate Hoolahan adverse to Cr. Sanderson on social media or otherwise. Candidate Hoolahan, in his response above, shows little or no insight into the potential for serious reputational damage to his opponent in posting or re-posting serious allegations which have already been fully investigated and rejected by the appropriate statutory authority."

When contacted for comment Mr Hoolahan described Cr Sanderson's decision to go to the ICEO as a "political move on his part to discredit me before the elections".

 "The post I re-posted was not written by me but was shared by me. Why hasn't Daniel made complaints regarding the hundreds of members of the community that re post the same articles?

 "It's simple they are not running against him in the elections."

Cr Sanderson rejected this and said he reported the claims because they were false.

He said the "appropriate course of action was taken" given the ICEO had been established to "deal with claims and issues such as these".

"As candidates, we all have a responsibility to adhere to higher level of expectations placed upon us," he said

"The standard you walk past is the standard you accept."

Cr Sanderson also criticised the ongoing social media commentary by others surrounding the contract awarded to his wife.

 "I won't entertain what has been spread on social media and I do take this matter very seriously and have also brought this to the attention of our CEO.

"The matter has been considered by the Department of Local Government, the Crime and Corruption Commission, and investigated by the Office of the Independent Assessor.

"The Office of the Independent Assessor conducted a full investigation into the allegations and concluded that there was no evidence to support the allegations and no evidence of any inappropriate conduct or misconduct.

"I have never used my position to gain an advantage for myself or my family.

"Sotik is very passionate about business and I will be the first to support her in her endeavours.

"Every required step of transparency and declaration was made in relation to this circumstance."