The Office of the Independent Assessor thoroughly and carefully assesses all complaints. The OIA may also initiate its own investigations if it has reason to suspect misconduct or inappropriate conduct.
If a complainant provides sufficient information, complaints assessed as possible misconduct will be investigated by the OIA and those assessed as inappropriate conduct will be referred back to local government for investigation.
If more information is required, a notice may be issued requesting further details.
If the complaint is vexatious or frivolous, it will be dismissed and the complainant advised. Please note penalties apply for making frivolous or vexatious complaints.
Inappropriate conduct complaints
The Local Government Act 2009 states that inappropriate conduct is to be referred back to the council to investigate and decide. The OIA has no power to investigate inappropriate conduct.
The OIA is able to recommend how the local government investigates or deals with the conduct, such as referring the matter to the Councillor Conduct Tribunal investigate. If a council, rejects the OIA’s recommendation, it must pass a resolution in a council meeting, stating its reasons.
The complainant and councillor will be advised by the OIA if the complaint is referred to the council as suspected inappropriate conduct.
The legislation requires councils to adopt an investigation policy to deal with suspected inappropriate conduct of councillors.
If the OIA assesses a complaint as suspected misconduct the OIA will undertake an investigation into the complaint and both the complainant and the subject officer will be advised.
During an investigation the complainant will receive an update every three months on the progress, unless the investigation is finalised earlier.
At the end of the investigation, if the Independent Assessor reasonably suspects misconduct, the OIA will make an application for the matter to be heard by the Councillor Conduct Tribunal.
The complainant and councillor will be advised by the OIA if the complaint is referred to the Councillor Conduct Tribunal and will receive a decision notice from the tribunal at the conclusion of this process.
Suspected corrupt conduct complaints
If the Independent Assessor reasonably suspects a complaint or information involves, or may involve, corrupt conduct the Independent Assessor must notify the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC). The complainant and councillor will be advised by the OIA if the complaint is referred to the CCC.
The Independent Assessor will notify complainants of the receipt and outcome of a complaint. Complainants will also be notified if the complaint is dismissed or no further action is taken by the Independent Assessor.
Complainants will be advised if their complaint is referred to a local government, the CCC or if the OIA is investigating with possible referral to the Councillor Conduct Tribunal.
Complainants will receive an update every three months, if the matter is not finalised earlier.
After assessment, matters may be dismissed and the case closed. Complainants may apply for the assessment decision to be reviewed. Request for review must be made within two months of the case being closed.
If the assessment is to investigate possible misconduct, subject councillors will have the opportunity to respond to any allegations (section 150AA process) before any decision is made to refer a matter to the Councillor Conduct Tribunal.
Councillors can review Councillor Conduct Tribunal decisions through the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).
Those who make a complaint or intend to make a complaint against a councillor are protected from acts of reprisal.
A councillor who is found to have threatened or taken actual action, or has incited, permitted or conspired with another person to threaten or take actual action against a complainant, can be fined or imprisoned for two years.
The Independent Assessor will dismiss a complaint that is assessed as being frivolous, vexatious or lacking in substance.
If a complaint is dismissed as being frivolous, the Independent Assessor will issue the person making the complaint a notice advising them that if they make the same, or substantially the same complaint again, the person commits an offence. The complainant may be liable to pay a fine of up to 85 penalty units. It is an offence after receiving the notice for a person to make the complaint again without a reasonable excuse.
It is an offence for a person to make or ask someone else to make a vexatious or mischievous, reckless or malicious complaint and could be liable to a fine of up to 85 penalty units.