Will Gold Coast go the way of Tweed?
TWO Gold Coast City councillors have welcomed an inquiry into serious misconduct allegations which mirror those which led to Tweed Council's sacking.
But Crs Peter Young and Eddie Sarroff say the Crime and Misconduct Commission's (CMC) probe can only deal with matters of a criminal nature and a broader public inquiry is still needed.
Local Government Minister Desley Boyle revealed last week she had written to the CMC expressing concern over the Gold Coast council.
"I am receiving letters and phone calls almost daily from Gold Coast residents who are concerned about the actions of the council," she said.
She said the main allegations raised were:
o A team of candidates was purposely brought together by the Gold Coast development interests - as was the case with the adjacent Tweed Council which ultimately led to its sacking.
o Successful candidates (now councillors) are regularly voting on matters directly benefiting electoral donors.
o Councillors voting in favour of the development proposals of electoral donors in cases where those developments directly contravene the council's planning scheme.
"These are very serious allegations which undermine the community's confidence in the Gold Coast City Council," she said.
"Of course I am concerned and I understand the CMC is looking into the situation.
"I have written to the CMC and passed on information supplied to me by residents at the Nerang community cabinet.
"The Gold Coast is Queensland's sec- ond largest council, with massive responsibilities.
"These allegations must be impacting, not only on the city's confidence in the council, but also on councillors and council staff.
"I hope the CMC will be thorough in its investigation and this is sorted out quickly," she said.
Cr Young, who along with Cr Sarroff, has been pushing for an inquiry since April 2004, said while the CMC probe was a step in the right direction, he was concerned that its powers were limited to acting only on criminal matters.
"What we need and what I'm seeking is a public inquiry where people can come forward and give evidence without fear of defamation," he said.
He said he was unfazed by the prospect that the inquiry could have a similar outcome to the Tweed where all councillors were sacked.
"If that's the ultimate price we have to pay for transparent local government which properly represents the interests of the community then so be it," he said.
"But I think the proper focus should be on the councillors who are the subject of the allegations."
Cr Sarroff said a black cloud hung over the council in regard to councillors who were elected with the help of a developer-backed slush fund, and an inquiry was needed to get to the bottom of it.
He said although some councillors denied that they used the slush fund to help their campaign, subsequent electoral returns contradicted their claims.
Cr Sarroff said some candidates were given up to $80,000 from the slush fund to help their election campaign with the view of forming a majority voting block.