FILE PHOTO: Cr Geoff McDonald
FILE PHOTO: Cr Geoff McDonald Kevin Farmer

Government watchdog finds councillor ‘engaged in misconduct’

A COUNCILLOR who referred himself to the State Government's new council watchdog said he was pleased the matter has been finalised.

In a statement released yesterday, Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian said Toowoomba Regional Council's Cr Geoff McDonald had been found to have engaged in misconduct by failing to declare a conflict of interest while voting on amendments to the Toowoomba CBD Development Incentive Policy.

Cr McDonald is a part-owner of two properties - 435 Ruthven St and 2 Club Ln - in the Toowoomba CBD Development Incentive Policy area.

Cr McDonald had previously declared the conflict of interest on two occasions but failed to do so while considering extending the policy for a third time in a meeting of the Economic Development Committee in November 2018.

Under the scheme, certain developments can be eligible for an 80 or 100 per cent infrastructure charges reduction, capped at $1 million.

The Office of the Independent Assessor accepted and submitted to the Councillor Conduct Tribunal that Cr McDonald's omission was inadvertent.

Cr McDonald said he had referred himself to the OIA.

"I'm pleased it's over and we can get on with things and learn from it. There's probably a lesson there for everyone in local government as well - it's pretty easy to inadvertently miss something knowing full well you're not going to an advantage of it," he said.

Mrs Florian said Cr McDonald demonstrated insight and awareness through a prompt apology to council and by removing himself from voting on the matter at a subsequent council meeting the next week.

"My swift action was recognised by the assessors and hopefully the public understands there was definitely no intent of doing anything untoward," Cr McDonald said.

"It was simple a case of putting my hand up and saying I think I should have been out of the room."

Mrs Florian said there was no evidence Cr McDonald sought to take advantage of the incentive policy.

Cr McDonald agreed to have the complaint fast tracked to the Councillor Conduct Tribunal, which found the matter did raise a perceived conflict of interest.

Cr McDonald was ordered to make a public admission of misconduct, but because he had already done so, the order was considered fulfilled and no further action was required.