Noosa councillor Brian Stockwell has been officially reprimanded for breaching the Councillor Code of Conduct.
The reprimand came from council at Thursday’s Ordinary Meeting following an itemised confidential discussion between councillors.
Cr Stockwell had been reported to the Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA) on two counts of inappropriate conduct – one of which was upheld, the other found to be unsubstantiated.
The issue concerned Cr Stockwell’s alleged behaviour toward a council staffer on March 12 and 13 of this year, in particular at a General Committee meeting where a debate was occurring over the ongoing use of Lions Park at Noosa Heads for paid parking at times other than the Christmas and Easter holiday peaks.
Cr Stockwell was questioning a staff recommendation where the wording was, in his view, incorrect under Land Act laws.
As a former Dept of Resources and Mines employee, Cr Stockwell had amassed substantial experience over the years in dealing with the Land Act, to the level of training DERM staff in its processes.
With this knowledge in mind, he sought an amendment to change the wording of the staff report, in his commentary saying “… it rectifies the incompetent aspects of the staff recommendation …”, however this was interpreted at the time as suggesting that staff responsible for the report might be incompetent rather than the nature of the report.
This was immediately pointed out to Cr Stockwell who apologised for “choosing his words poorly” and withdrew his comment when called on to do so by the meeting chair, Deputy Mayor Frank Wilkie.
The investigation cleared him in relation to this issue.
Following this, Cr Stockwell engaged in sending internal emails to explain further his reasoning, some of which expressed concern the staff recommendation could be in breach of the council’s employee code of conduct.
A complaint was referred to the OIA by then-council CEO Scott Waters – the CEO being the employer of all council staff – as is customary process.
The OIA findings were handed down to council where, on Thursday, Cr Amelia Lorentson motioned that “Council formally expresses its disapproval of the inappropriate conduct engaged in by Cr Stockwell” and he be “reprimanded for his inappropriate conduct” and “attend training or counselling at the Councillor’s expense within a period of 3 months …”, carried unanimously.
Cr Stockwell acknowledged his error “in relation to two emails I sent earlier this year and my advocacy on the issue of moves to extend car parking in a public recreation park in Noosa Heads”.
“Because of the serious nature of the issues I raised and questions about whether the process was a proper and legitimate one, I made the mistake of emailing several members of staff [but] my concerns should have been directed only to the CEO or the Mayor.
“I acknowledge that in raising the matter more broadly I did not treat the relevant staff with the appropriate level of courtesy and fairness required by the Councillor Code of Conduct”.
“I hold the staff member who wrote the report in high regard, and have already apologised to that officer,” he said.
Cr Stockwell said it was only human to make mistakes, “but it’s important we learn from them”.
“I have enjoyed good working relations with staff throughout the organisation for many years and take on board the lessons from this incident to ensure this continues into the future,” he said.
“I have spent much of my life fighting for what we call Noosa values, our lifestyle, our residents and our environment.
“I will continue this battle, but I have been reminded this year that the ‘rough and tumble’ of political discourse must remain in the political realm, and not affect those just trying to do their job.”