Mackay's dibber dobber councillors: 1 for not wearing shoes

A COUNCILLOR who didn't wear shoes into the Mackay Regional Council building was the subject of an official complaint from a colleague, as petty infighting threatens to split the council.

The council has confirmed 13 official complaints have been filed by councillors against other councillors in the past six months - nearly double the total recorded in the past nine years.

One of the complaints was against Cr Laurence Bonaventura for not wearing shoes to a meeting. He confirmed he had seven or eight complaints against him, and had made one, and said of the actions "it is very difficult to trust councillors and their views when they stoop to things like this".

News of the raft of complaints seems to confirm rumours of infighting ahead of the councillors' first meeting of 2018 today.

No councillor would go on the record as saying the council is divided; however, this newspaper has sat in on nearly every meeting and it is obvious there is Mayor Greg Williamson, Deputy Mayor Amanda Camm, councillors Fran Mann, Karen May, Justin Englert, Ayril Paton and Ross Gee in one camp and Martin Bella, Cr Bonaventura, Ross Walker and Kevin Casey in the other.

Details of the complaints remain confidential, however, The Daily Mercury has had the shoes complaint confirmed and others were about alleged breaches of confidence regarding budget decisions and others over bad language. All so far have been dismissed. But even if the complaints were upheld, it would most likely just end in a reprimand letter from the Mayor.


Councillor Martin Bella's Facebook post about complaints made by councillors against other councillors.
Councillor Martin Bella's Facebook post about complaints made by councillors against other councillors. Facebook

The swag of complaints has frustrated senior members of council as the tit-for-tat between the two opposing groups detracted from how the council is run.

Mayor Williamson said the complaints, none of which he made, were personal in nature and a result of "big personalities" clashing.

He said the councillors had decided to use the complaints system to settle their differences and he hoped there wouldn't be any more. However, he said the pettiness had not affected the usual running of the business. Cr Bonaventura said, however, it had been difficult.

"There was a great deal of tension as first. The letter I received said I had to prepare for my case. I collected all the information I could and they had very little detail when they lodged the complaint," Cr Bonaventura said.

He admitted he had lodged a complaint about another councillor's perceived conflict of interest. That councillor's conduct was found to have been acceptable.

Cr Justin Englert said he was aware of the bare-feet complaint and, despite it seeming trivial, there was merit to it. He said it was about leadership and if council staff had to wear shoes so should the councillors. "I didn't make that complaint but I supported it and that councillor now wears shoes every day in that building," Cr Englert said. "It is not a big thing unless you consider leadership by example.'' Other complaints were more serious.

Two, levelled at Crs Bonaventura and Bella for alleged breaches of confidence, have been dismissed by the Department of Local Government and Planning tribunal.

However, Cr Kevin Casey, now in his fourth term on council, said they had to get on and do their jobs and stop the infighting.

A complaint was also made about Cr Casey. Notification was waiting on his desk when he returned to work after spending nine months in Brisbane undergoing a kidney transplant. It also involved an alleged breach of confidence and related to a radio interview Cr Casey had done after the council's 2017/18 budget was released. Mr Casey said there was a lack of information to support the complaint because the comment singled out had been made by the interviewer.

Chief executive Craig Doyle said four complaints had yet to be finalised.

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