4 November 2019
Gold Coast Deputy Mayor, Donna Gates, has been ordered to undergo counselling by the council’s CEO after two counts of misconduct were sustained, including for inaccurately describing more than 30 campaign donations worth more than $68,000 as ‘race tickets’ on her register of interests.
The second misconduct finding related to the receipt of $2,500 from a donor which wasn’t added to Cr Gates’ register of interests within 30 days.
The Office of the Independent Assessor submitted that on multiple occasions Cr Gates inaccurately described her interests as ‘race tickets’ when they in fact were sums of money given to the councillor for the purpose of attending a race day.
The tickets were for a 2016 campaign fundraising race day and were worth $195 each, $1,850 for a standard table and $2,500 for a ‘gold’ table which included different table decorations and champagne.
The donations were correctly lodged on Cr Gates’ electoral disclosure returns but not on her register of interests, as required under the Local Government Act.
Cr Gates immediately updated her register of interests in March 2019, after being notified of the investigation.
The Councillor Conduct Tribunal accepted that both misconduct matters were the result of an error which Cr Gates immediately corrected when the issue was raised.
Councillor Gates assisted the OIA with its investigation and consented to the matter being fast tracked to the Tribunal.
The Tribunal stated that the description of the gifts in the register of interests was inadequate. A person inspecting the register would not understand from the description that the nature of the gift was money rather than ‘race tickets’.
The ‘description’ of the gift must be reliable, as the register is available for public inspection and for the purposes of transparency.
Cr Gates was ordered to be counselled by the Gold Coast City Council CEO about the conduct and how not to repeat it within 60 days, and that the CEO report to the Independent Assessor at the end of 60 days confirming such counselling has been undertaken.
The Councillor Conduct Tribunal decision can be found here.