April 28, 2021
Division 1 Cr Kirstie Schumacher has lost her unblemished record of being the only South Burnett Councillor not referred to the Office Of The Independent Assessor (OIA) during the current term.
At Wednesday’s General Meeting, Councillors were told that on November 26 Cr Schumacher posted a comment disagreeing with the expansion of the Kingaroy Transformation Project’s budget to her personal Facebook page.
Cr Schumacher’s error was that she had done this without noting the majority of Councillors had voted to pass the $2.8 million budget expansion the day earlier.
The Code Of Conduct For Councillors In Queensland specifies that when a councillor expresses an opinion dissenting with a majority decision of Council, councillors should respect the democratic process by acknowledging a Council decision represents the majority view of the Council.
This trivial omission meant SBRC CEO Mark Pitt was obliged by law to lodge a complaint about Cr Schumacher with the OIA as soon as he became aware of it.
On December 23, the OIA wrote to Cr Schumacher advising her of the complaint and provided her with the opportunity to respond.
On January 11, Cr Schumacher provided a written response to the OIA in which she denied the allegation of inappropriate conduct and supplied supporting documentation.
On January 19, the OIA wrote to the CEO advising it had written to Cr Schumacher about the complaint and received a response.
It recommended the matter be referred to an external investigator in accordance with the Council’s policies, and on February 25 the matter was passed to an accredited investigator nominated by the OIA.
Cr Schumacher was interviewed by this investigator on March 9.
He found that – on the balance of probabilities – the complaint was capable of being substantiated but recommended the Council consider no action be taken against her.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Councillors found this exercise in accord with Belcarra reforms had cost ratepayers $5625 plus GST.
However, they voted to accept the investigator’s recommendation without comment.
The meeting noted that Cr Schumacher had co-operated throughout the investigation, spoken candidly, and demonstrated insight and remorse for the conduct.
The outcome of the complaint will be posted on the Council’s Complaints Register shortly.
NB. All other complaints lodged with the OIA against current councillors during this term have been dismissed, but each has cost ratepayers a similar or higher amount.