19 March 2020
Bundaberg Regional Councillor Greg Barnes has been found to have engaged in misconduct by releasing confidential information on Facebook.
The Councillor Conduct Tribunal heard that in December 2018, the Bundaberg Regional Council discussed a plan to re-tender a project to upgrade the Kalkie Water Treatment Plant.
The original budget for the project was $8 million but, in January 2019, a council officer advised Cr Barnes the budget could increase to about $12 million although the exact figure was not yet known.
Later the same day, Cr Barnes revealed the revised amount on Facebook when responding to a comment by a Bargara resident who was concerned about the quality of water in the area.
The tribunal found that given his lengthy experience in local government, the fifth-term councillor should have reasonably known the revised budget figure was confidential.
It also referred to a procurement manual for staff of Bundaberg Regional Council which states that most procurement transactions should be treated as commercial-in-confidence.
The tribunal found that Cr Barnes’ disclosure could have resulted in a financial detriment to the Bundaberg Regional Council and had the potential to jeopardise council’s position in relation to any future tender process.
In handing down its decision, the tribunal noted while the long-standing councillor had no previous disciplinary history, it was important to recognise that his behaviour was unacceptable.
Cr Barnes was ordered to publicly admit he engaged in misconduct and attend either training or counselling at his own expense to help prevent further misconduct.
The tribunal cautioned that a more serious penalty could be imposed should the issue occur again in the future.
The Councillor Conduct Tribunal decision can be found here.
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