Gympie councillor guilty of misconduct for second time
COUNCILLOR Dan Stewart has been fined $700 for breaching Gympie Regional Council’s confidentiality for a second time.
The Councillor Conduct Tribunal ruled Mr Stewart breached confidentiality in a Facebook post announcing the venue for an annual campervan and motorhome rally that was to be held this year.
The Office of the Independent Assessor found Mr Stewart attended a closed session of a council meeting on 28 August 2019, at which all matters were treated as confidential.
One item under consideration was a request for the rally.
It was dealt with in the closed session as the bid to host event was a competitive process, consideration needed to be given to council’s financial commitment, and the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia wanted to announce the venue.
Despite the confidentiality requirements Mr Stewart revealed on his Facebook page, Dan 4 Gympie, the council had agreed to provide the showgrounds for the rally in 2020.
He deleted the information from his post two days after the meeting, and later admitted to the OIA that he should not have published the details.
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The Councillor Conduct Tribunal noted “striking similarities” between the case and a misconduct finding against Cr Stewart in 2016 after he revealed, on a public Facebook page, that council had discussed the purchase of the Gympie Golf Club in a closed session of an ordinary meeting.
However, it acknowledged the councillor’s “frank and swift acceptance of the facts” indicated remorse, adding his admission had saved significant time and expense for both the CCT and the OIA.
The CCT said had Mr Stewart not admitted to his misconduct, a fine of up to $2000 may have been issued in order to dissuade councillors in a similar situation from “betraying the trust of Council and their elected office”.
The CCT noted that while the majority of council decisions are to be made openly and transparently, the confidentiality of some council information should not be undermined lightly as doing so can adversely affect public trust in council decisions and the integrity of council decision making.