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    Coat of ArmsMedia Release
    Minister for Environment, Local Government, Planning and Women
    The Honourable Desley Boyle

    State puts Johnstone Shire Council on notice

    Minister for Environment, Local Government, Planning and Women
    The Honourable Desley Boyle

    Wednesday, August 02, 2006

    State puts Johnstone Shire Council on notice

    Local Government Minister Desley Boyle today asked councillors of Johnstone Shire Council to “Show Cause” why the council should not be sacked.

    Ms Boyle said an investigation into the Council had found a serious breakdown in the governance and operational functions of the Council.

    “The investigation into the council has identified major concerns including:

    • a culture of bullying and intimidation by some councillors against other councillors and staff;
    • repeated breaches of the Councillor Code of Conduct;
    • breaches of proper meeting procedures;
    • poor staff morale;
    • the interference of councillors in operational decisions;
    • a lack of objectivity in decision making; and
    • a lack of proper financial and other planning for the future.

    “The investigator said the Council was dominated by a group of councillors known as the ‘gang of five’ and found there is an atmosphere of shouting, aggressive behaviour, swearing and threats of violence aimed at other councillors and staff.

    “Because of this female councillors felt intimidated and reluctant to speak out in meetings.

    “There are claims that certain councillors have entered worksites without safety induction or protective equipment and threatened and abused staff when this was pointed out.

    “There are also claims that certain councillors attack and humiliate staff in public meetings to justify altering the recommendations of those staff.

    “The investigator found a growing turnover of key staff with senior officers highly anxious about giving ‘frank and fearless’ advice lest they suffer further harassment or dismissal.

    “He raised serious risks that councillors disregarding professional advice from senior staff could result in liability for damages through lack of diligence in decision making.

    “With the Council already in a ‘parlous financial position’, with staff leaving or looking elsewhere, the investigator raised concerns about the Council’s capacity to manage the extensive program of cyclone recovery works required.

    “The investigator also found that the sort of planning for the future required by any council was either poorly developed, incomplete, or missing altogether.

    “He heard evidence that meeting procedure was ignored by councillors and not enforced by the Mayor. Substantive motions were dealt with without notice in closed session. Councillors in the minority group were denied information and given no warning of important matters to prevent them preparing for debate.

    “The investigator also had concerns that evidence indicated some councillors made decisions based on motivations other than the public interest.

    “For these reasons I have serious concerns about Johnstone Shire Council’s ability to provide the region with an effective, stable and solvent local government.

    “I have given Council 14 days to respond to my concerns, outlining why it should not be sacked and have an administrator appointed.

    “I am expecting a thorough response from the Council to all the issues and governance problems.

    “I will then assess Council’s submission and make a decision on the future of the Council.

    “The residents of Johnstone Shire are trying to get back on their feet after Cyclone Larry and they need the leadership and support of a strong council.

    “It is important to stress that this in no way reflects on the staff of the Council, who have been doing their best in trying circumstances,” Ms Boyle said.

    The special hotline and email used during the investigation will remain open for residents and staff of the Council who have questions about the Show Cause Notice – phone 1800 030 114 or email Johnstone@dlgpsr.qld.gov.au.

    Ends

    Media contact: 3227 8819