Councillor caught red-handed in bizarre fake voicemail
MAVERICK Brisbane Greens councillor Jonathan Sri has been fined and ordered to apologise after he was caught out pretending to be a concerned Ipswich resident in a bizarre phone call to a State MP.
"Hi, my name is … um … Jon. I'm a resident of Deebing Heights," Cr Sri says in the ham-fisted voicemail message left on Ipswich MP Jennifer Howard's phone.
"I'm just calling to raise my concerns about the development at the Deebing Creek mission site. I don't think it should go ahead and I am hoping that Jennifer will speak out publicly against it."
The councillor, dubbed "despicable Sri" earlier this year for using his ratepayer-funded office to host strategy meetings for climate protesters and comparing Extinction Rebellion activists to Anzac Day marchers, made the call in January over a contentious development around the former Deebing Creek Mission and cemetery at Deebing Heights.
The embarrassing ruse was quickly discovered after some handy detective work by Ms Howard's astute assistant electorate officer.
She matched the mobile number linked to the voicemail message to one contained within an email Cr Sri had sent her office just one day earlier, unmasking "Jon from Deebing Heights" as the outspoken Gabba Ward councillor who actually lives some 50km away in Brisbane.
Cr Sri last night told The Courier-Mail that it wasn't the right thing to do and said he was sorry if he had hurt Ms Howard's feeling.
"I was advising residents that if they wanted to stop the development and prevent the trees being bulldozed, they should call their MP's office," he said.
"I thought if I was telling residents to call a phone number, I should at least test it first to see what happens, but when no-one answered I left a voicemail on the spur of the moment."
Cr Sri said he was still hopeful Ms Howard would meet with him so he could explain to her why he didn't want the State Government to allow the Deebing Creek Mission site to be "bulldozed".
Ms Howard complained to Brisbane City Council CEO Colin Jensen following the call. Mr Jensen referred the matter to the Councillor Conduct Review Panel.
It last month found Cr Sri guilty of inappropriate conduct, fining him $1334 and asking him to apologise to Ms Howard.
Cr Sri last night said he would be making an apology to Ms Howard, but did not intend to pay a "made-up fine" - insisting he had not broken the law.
"The Councillor Conduct Review Panel is a kangaroo court whose members are hand-picked by the LNP, and clearly shouldn't have the power to hand out fines," Cr Sri said.
"Rather than paying the fine to council, I think I'll just donate the $1300 to a local homelessness charity."
The conduct review panel's executive summary stated Cr Sri said his actions in leaving the voicemail were "spur of the moment" as he expected to talk to Ms Howard or one of her staff after having established a connection with the Elders and being opposed to the development at the site.
"Cr Sri also submitted that his representations to Ms Howard MP were, in part, a test of the response that she would make to the Elders if they took his advice to make their own representations to her regarding proposed redevelopment at the sacred site," the executive summary stated.
"(Cr Sri) immediately admitted without prompting that he was not a resident of Deebing Heights and that he left the voicemail message …
"(Cr Sri) repeatedly expressed his remorse in doing so by the use of such terms as 'not proud of what I did', 'it was a misrepresentation', that his conduct in making the calls was 'dishonourable' and that he was willing to apologise to Ms Howard MP for his actions that day.
The panel found that his expressions of remorse over the message were "genuine and convincing".
But it found the allegations were substantiated.
It is the third time the outspoken councillor - the first Greens councillor to be elected to the BCC chamber - has fallen foul of the conduct review panel.
He was found guilty of two other complaints made against him in February this year.
Cr Sri drew fire from the LNP administration this week after he accused the Queensland Police Service of being a "violent and racist" institution.