Maranoa Regional Council. Photo: Lachlan Berlin
Maranoa Regional Council. Photo: Lachlan Berlin

Councillors raise conflict of interest questions

Questions have been raised about the continuity of councillors declaring their conflicts of interest.

At the Wednesday, February 10 meeting in Injune, the majority of councillors agreed on spending $2500 on a draft plan for a new pedestrian crossing on Wyndham St.

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But it was the discussion prior to that which raised some eyebrows.

With mayor Tyson Golder owning a business in the Roma CBD, he declared a conflict of interest, however said he wanted to remain in the meeting as it would be in the public’s interest he had a say in the matter.

Cr Joh Hancock then questioned that move, stating sometimes Cr Golder chooses to opt-out of the meeting even if it is discussing the CBD.

“I don’t have a problem either way but is there a difference when you choose when it’s in the CBD and other times you hop out,” she asked.

Cr Golder responded, “basically the view is if I could stay in the room if it’s close to the business, I would opt out but when this is in a remote part of the CBD, I am concerned I am not representing the people … so that’s why I’m handing it over to council to make the decision”.

Cr Wendy Taylor moved that the mayor participates in the conversation, with Cr George Ladbrook seconding.

However, Cr Mark Edwards opposed the mayor sitting in on the discussion, before declaring a conflict of interest himself.

Cr Edwards opted to leave as he also has a business in the vicinity of Wyndham St and said he could potentially benefit from pedestrian traffic.

In the same meeting that day Cr Cameron O’Neil was voted by the majority of councillors to leave the discussion about Maranoa council replacing a fence that half belongings to a business that he has close ties with.

Cr Hancock moved a motion for council to fund $2230, which is a 50 per cent co-contribution with the Roma Veterinary Clinic to replace a boundary fence adjoining council’s vacant land.

Moments before it went into a closed meeting, Cr O’Neil declared a conflict of interest stating he is friends with the owners of the clinic and they had allowed him to place his corflute on their private residence in the by-election 11 years ago.

Cr O’Neil asked his fellow councillors to vote whether he should be allowed to participate and vote in the discussion.

In support of Cr O’Neil participating and voting in the agenda item C. 5 Roma Veterinary Clinic, councillor Taylor cited a reasonable person would trust the final decision was made in the public’s interest.

Cr Hancock seconded this motion.

Mayor Golder asked the CEO Julie Reitano if other councillors declare a conflict of interest, can they participate in the vote of Cr O’Neil.

“We’ve clarified this before, it’s only eligible voters, the ones only who do not have a conflict,” Ms Reitano said.

Deputy Mayor Geoff McMullen then asked if they were declaring a conflict of interests on each individual item.

“ … haven’t we had this situation before, if someone else has a conflict, they can’t vote on whether someone else has a conflict … on the same item,” Ms Reitano further clarified.

Referring back to councillor O’Neil’s conflict of interest, the CEO said “bearing in mind, they’re close personal friends, I don’t know whether that makes a difference”.

Crs Golder, McMullen, Edwards, Ladbrook, Julie Guthrie and John Birkett voted against councillor O’Neil participating and voting in the matter of the fence.

Cr Guthrie declared a conflict of interest stating her daughter-in-law works at the clinic and opted to not participate in the discussion.

The remaining Crs – Golder, McMullen, Taylor, Hancock, Ladbrook, Edwards and Birkett voted in favour of making the 50 per cent co-contribution.

What do you think about councillors declaring their conflicts of interest? Should mayor Golder have contributed to the discussion about the Wyndham St crossing and should councillor O’Neil have remained in the discussion about replacing the fence?

Share your thoughts by emailing surat@news.com.au

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