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The Local Government Act 2009 and the City of Brisbane Act 2010 set out processes for dealing with complaints about councillor conduct.

  • Assessment of complaints

    A complaint about the conduct of a councillor is assessed by the chief executive officer of the relevant local government, unless the complaint is made by the mayor or council chief executive officer. In that case, the chief executive officer refers the complaint to the department for assessment.

    The complaint may be assessed as one of the following:

    • frivolous, vexatious or lacking in substance - where a complaint is found to be frivolous, vexatious or lacking in substance the complaint is dismissed and no further action is taken. The complaints assessor will write to the complainant and the accused councillor to advise them of the decision.
      • A frivolous complaint is one that is about a minor, meaningless or unimportant matter. A complaint may be assessed as frivolous if it:
        • does not make a specific allegation
        • provides only vague or insufficient information
        • is about a trivial, non-serious issue.
      • A vexatious complaint is one that is made to annoy or cause harm. A complaint may be assessed as vexatious if it is made:
        • deliberately to annoy or embarrass a person
        • using information the complainant knows to be false
        • to mislead or harm someone; or is not intended to lead to a practical result.
      • A complaint lacking in substance is one where the facts do not support the complaint. A complaint may be assessed as lacking in substance if:
        • there is no or not enough evidence of wrongdoing
        • the information provided was incorrect or misinterpreted by the complainant.
    • inappropriate conduct - poor behaviour that is not appropriate for an elected representative of a local government but is not serious enough to be misconduct [Local Government Act 2009, section 176(4); City of Brisbane Act 2010, section 178(4)]. For example:
      • failing to comply with council procedures and policies
      • behaving in an offensive or disorderly manner.
    • misconduct - improper behaviour by a councillor as defined by the Local Government Act 2009, section176(3) and the City of Brisbane Act 2010, section 178(3). For example:
      • acting dishonestly or with bias in carrying out a councillor's official duties
      • misuse of information
      • failure to leave a council or committee meeting when directed
      • refusal to comply with a regional conduct review panel or tribunal direction
      • repeated inappropriate conduct
      • release of confidential information
      • conflict of interest
    • official misconduct - defined by, and dealt with, under the Crime and Misconduct Act 2001. For a councillor, official misconduct involves an allegation about behaviour that, if proved, could amount to a criminal offence. Some examples are where a councillor:
      • votes on a matter under consideration by council with an intention to gain a benefit or avoid a loss for the councillor or someone else
      • uses inside information to cause the purchase or sale of an asset by the councillor or someone else
      • provides false or incomplete information in their register of interests or a register of interests for a related person.
      Section 38 of the Crime and Misconduct Act requires a chief executive officer to report anything they suspect may be official misconduct to the Crime and Misconduct Commission. This requirement overrides any other obligation, such as confidentiality.

      For more information about official misconduct, go to the Crime and Misconduct Commission website.
  • Investigation of complaints

    If a complaint is determined to be frivolous, vexatious or lacking in substance, no further action is taken.

    If a complaint is assessed as being about inappropriate conduct, misconduct or official misconduct an investigation will be undertaken.

    The person making the complaint may be interviewed and/or asked to provide further information as part of the investigative process.

    The councillor complained about may also be interviewed as part of the process.

    If you are accused of improper behaviour, you are presumed innocent unless proven otherwise. You will be afforded natural justice throughout the investigation process which means that you will:

    • be told about the allegation against you
    • have the opportunity to refute the allegation
    • not be required to give any evidence that might incriminate you.

    The complaint may be investigated by the chief executive officer of the local government, or the department, or one of two independent bodies:

    • a regional conduct review panel
    • the Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal.

    See more information in the sections below.

  • Regional conduct review panels

    A regional conduct review panel is a body, created under the Local Government Act 2009, which is responsible for hearing and deciding a complaint of misconduct by a councillor.

    Division 6 of the Local Government Act is about dealing with complaints about the conduct and performance of councillors. It is important to ensure that appropriate standards of conduct and performance are maintained and that any councillor who engages in misconduct or inappropriate conduct is disciplined.

    The complaints process is managed by the department. You can find more information about how complaints are dealt with in other sections of this page.

    Allegations of misconduct are referred to either a regional conduct review panel or, for more serious cases, to the Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal (more information in the next section below). If an allegation of misconduct is substantiated, the panel or tribunal takes disciplinary action.

    Panel membership

    A panel is made up of at least three members drawn from a pool of suitably qualified persons appointed by the Director-General of the department for different regions of the state. There are currently 35 members in the pool across two regions, southern and northern.

    Panel members must be of high standing in the community with extensive knowledge of, and experience in, one or more of the following areas: local government, community affairs, investigations, law, public administration, public sector ethics and public finance.

    Panel hearings

    The panel is responsible for holding hearings to determine whether a complaint about councillor misconduct is sustained. The standard of proof in the hearing is the balance of probabilities.

    The panel must keep a written record of each hearing, including the statements of the accused councillor and all witnesses and any reports relating to the councillor that are tendered at the hearing.

    Panel decisions

    A decision by a regional conduct review panel in relation to misconduct is not subject to appeal (section 176(9) of the Local Government Act).

    Panel costs

    The local government must pay the costs of the regional conduct review panel in relation to a complaint of misconduct by a councillor (section 191 of the Local Government Act).

    Brisbane City Council Councillor Conduct Review Panel

    The Brisbane City Council (BCC) councillor conduct review panel is a body, created under the City of Brisbane Act 2010, which is responsible for hearing and deciding a complaint of misconduct or inappropriate conduct by a BCC councillor.

    This panel hears all complaints about misconduct by BCC councillors. The Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal does not undertake hearings in relation to BCC councillor conduct.

    The panel is made up of at least three members drawn from a pool of suitably qualified persons appointed by resolution of the Brisbane City Council.

  • Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal

    The Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal is a body, created under the Local Government Act 2009, which is responsible, among other things, for hearing and deciding the most serious complaints of misconduct by local government councillors (section 176, of the Local Government Act).

    Division 6 of the Local Government Act outlines how complaints about the conduct and performance of councillors are to be dealt with. It is important to ensure that appropriate standards of conduct and performance are maintained and that any councillor who engages in misconduct or inappropriate conduct is disciplined.

    The complaints process is managed by the department. You can find more information about how complaints are dealt with in other sections of this page.

    Allegations of misconduct are referred to either the tribunal or a regional conduct review panel. You can find more information in the previous section above. If an allegation of misconduct is substantiated, the tribunal or panel takes disciplinary action.

    For Brisbane City councillors, all allegations of misconduct are heard by the Brisbane City Council Councillor Conduct Review Panel, not the tribunal.

    Tribunal membership

    The Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal is established under chapter 6, part 3 of the Local Government Act 2009.

    The tribunal is an independent body, made up of three suitably qualified persons appointed by the Governor in Council.

    Tribunal members must be of high standing in the community with extensive knowledge of, and experience in, one or more of the following areas: local government, community affairs, industrial relations, investigations, law, public administration, public sector ethics, public finance or other areas considered appropriate by the Governor in Council.

    Tribunal hearings

    The tribunal is responsible for holding hearings to determine whether a complaint about serious misconduct by a councillor is sustained. The standard of proof in the hearing is the balance of probabilities.

    The tribunal must keep a written record of each hearing, including the statements of the accused councillor and all witnesses and any reports relating to the councillor that are tendered at the hearing.

    Tribunal decisions

    A decision by the tribunal in relation to misconduct is not subject to appeal (section 176(9) of the Local Government Act).

    Tribunal costs

    The local government must pay the costs of the tribunal in relation to a complaint of misconduct by a councillor (section 186 of the Local Government Act).

  • Disciplinary action for unacceptable conduct

    If a complaint is sustained, the councillor is disciplined. Depending on the seriousness of the conduct complained about, the councillor may be:

    • disciplined by the mayor, the department, a regional conduct review panel, the Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal or the Crime and Misconduct Commission
    • prosecuted for committing an offence
    • suspended or dismissed from office by the Minister for Local Government.

    Types of disciplinary action

    The disciplinary action to be taken against a councillor found to have behaved improperly depends on the:

    • type of conduct
    • level of seriousness of the conduct
    • circumstances relating to the conduct
    • relevant provisions of the Local Government Act or City of Brisbane Act.

    Inappropriate conduct

    Disciplinary action for inappropriate conduct is taken by the:

    • mayor - in the case of a councillor
    • department - in the case of a mayor or deputy mayor.

    Disciplinary action for inappropriate conduct by a Brisbane City councillor is undertaken by the Brisbane City Council (BCC) councillor conduct review panel.

    If you have been found guilty of inappropriate conduct you may be:

    • given a reprimand

    or the mayor, department or BCC panel may order that:

    • if you repeat the conduct, it will be referred to a regional conduct review panel as misconduct
    • your conduct be noted in the minutes of the meeting where it occurred
    • you leave the meeting (and if you refuse, order that you be removed).

    If a mayor or the department makes three orders in relation to inappropriate conduct for the same councillor within one year they must refer the repeated inappropriate conduct to a regional conduct review panel or the Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal where it must be treated as a complaint about misconduct.

    Misconduct

    Disciplinary action for misconduct by a Brisbane City councillor is undertaken by the BCC councillor conduct review panel which may impose a similar range of penalties to those listed below. See section 183 of the City of Brisbane Act, for more information.

    Disciplinary action for misconduct by a councillor of any other local government is taken by either of the following:

    • Regional Conduct Review Panel
    • Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal.

    You can find more information in the sections above.

    If you have been found guilty of misconduct, the relevant panel may do one or more of the following:

    • order that you:
      • be counselled
      • admit error or apologise
      • enter into mediation
      • reimburse the local government
      • pay the local government an amount not more than $5,500
    • recommend that the department monitor you, or your local government, for compliance with the Local Government Act
    • recommend that the Crime and Misconduct Commission or the police further investigate your conduct.

    The tribunal may take whatever action it considers appropriate including those actions listed above. It may also:

    • order that you forfeit an allowance, benefit, payment or privilege
    • recommend that the Minister suspend or dismiss you from your position as councillor.
  • Complaint outcome

    Once a complaint has been finalised, both the complainant and the accused councillor are given written advice of the outcome.

  • Records about complaints

    The local government's chief executive officer must:

    • keep a record of all written complaints and the outcome of each complaint, including any disciplinary or other action
    • ensure that the public may inspect that part of the record relating to the outcomes of written complaints at the local government's public office or on its website. This does not apply to complaints that were frivolous, vexatious, lacking in substance or that are a public interest disclosure under the Public Disclosure Interest Act 2010.
  • Accountability

    For information on how a complaint about councillor conduct is dealt with view the Guideline for Mayors and Chief Executive Officers (PDF icon 386 KB).