Tribunal rules on Melchert
FORMER Douglas Shire councillor Terry Melchert has been found to have engaged in misconduct by the Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal.
In a decision handed down in November and released to the Gazette under a Right to Information request, the tribunal said Mr Melchert was wrong in January 2015 to have posted questions online that he had been denied the opportunity raise at a council meeting.
The questions related to Mr Melchert’s attempt to have the council waive a penalty notice issued to Richard Lavender, the organiser of the Haunting of Oak Beach.
The tribunal ruled the questions were found to have been formed using confidential council documents, and represented Cr Melchert’s personal opinion that a council officer had acted unlawfully in issuing the organiser of the Haunting of Oak Beach an infringement notice.
That opinion had also been reached by relying on information available to him as a councillor.
The report says the council officer believed Cr Melchert’s post had the “potential to interfere” with the officer’s “duties as an authorised officer without facing animosity or distrust from members of the public”.
The report noted that the tribunal followed through with its investigation and findings even after Cr Melchert lost reelection earlier this year, because of the “time, effort and expense which has gone into [the allegations] investigation and Cr Melchert’s defence of them.”
Disciplinary action against (fmr) Cr Melchert relies upon his becoming a DSC councillor again in the future.
If he does, he will be required to make an admission of error and deliver an apology to the officer that made the complaint for hurt, distress of humiliation caused by his post on online, and to the DSC for publishing confidential information and/or misleading information in the same post.
“Such apologies are to be delivered orally in the first open session of Council attended by him if he is again elected,” the report says.
The next Queensland Local Government election is in 2020.
In a separate matter, the Regional Conduct Review Panel upheld an allegation by a council officer against former Cr Melchert that he breached the trust placed in him as a councillor by failing to hand over recordings he made of council meetings, and as a result failed to ensure Douglas Shire Council complied with the Public Records Act and Right To Information Act.
The panel found that the misconduct was serious, but “not in the highest scale of misconduct.”
Mr Melchert was ordered to pay $500 to Douglas Shire Council by December 31 2016, and another $1000 by April 30 2017. The order does not depend on Mr Melchert returning as a councillor.