Chamber of secrets

By YVONNE McLEAN

IN a bid to stem the leak of confidential information flowing out of the Gold Coast City Council offices, Councillor Ted Shepherd has called on his colleagues to provide written statements declaring they are not involved.

Cr Shepherd has also issued a challenge to his colleagues to reveal the identity of anybody they suspect of leaking information to the media or other parties.

In a recommendation tabled before council last week, Cr Shepherd also said he wants his fellow councillors to confirm they are aware of their obligations under the Local Government Act which includes the obligation to maintain confidentiality.

The issue of leaks has been highlighted by the recent sacking of senior council officer Greg Young over several sexual harassment incidents.

Although his recommendations did not specifically refer to Young and his 'love letters' to several female staff members, Cr Shepherd made it plain it is the on-going coverage of that incident which has angered him and other councillors.

"Any councillor or member of the staff who leaks confidential information about council decisions is in breach of the Local Government Act and our own code of conduct," he said.

"It cannot be tolerated because such actions could well deprive someone of his or her natural justice."

Cr Daphne McDonald was quick to support the move to plug the leaks to the media.

"Confidential is a word not given lightly in council, the word confidential is there for a very good reason and once it is publicly released someone is going to get hurt," Cr Daphne McDonald said.

"The case of Greg Young has been played out in some media and even judged by them and no media can have all the facts of this case.

"But it is not just this issue. Divulging any confidential matter breaches the law and reflects on a councillor or staff member's integrity."

Cr Shepherd's recommendation was approved by the full council after a lengthy debate.

The list of councillors' responses will be kept by the chief executive officer and results will be reported to the coordination committee meeting on Monday.

If all councillors declare their innocence regarding the leaks an investigation into which staff members have access to confidential information will be launched.

It is understood six councillors have already signed a statement indicating they did not disclose confidential council information to any person.

Cr Christine Robbins said she had no problem signing such a statement as a matter of principle.

"I was incensed to read a front page story concerning our senior officer of the time and his indiscretions before I, along with most councillors knew anything about the matter," she said.

"This was an in-house issue and it has been played out as almost a trial by media."



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