OIC Ruling: Frank’s Response


In 2018, I took part in a unanimously approved round of community grants, including one from a volunteer community group to place a ring of stones in a public park outside a community kindergarten. The grant was never eventually awarded as the work was done by the Noosa Council as part of planned civil works.

Over one year later, in the lead up to the 2020 elections, a complaint was lodged with the Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA), and after a three and half year process involving 270 pages of evidence it was found I ought to have declared a perceived conflict of interest. I apologise for this lapse, have attended training at my own expense and been overly cautious in declaring matters ever since.

Reform of the OIA legislation has now occurred after the process was clogged with vexatious and trivial matters used in attempts to cause personal and political harm. 

Dear Noosa Community members,

After a complaint to the Office of the Independent Assessor in 2019, a three and a half year process and consideration of 271 pages of evidence, the Councillor Conduct Tribunal has handed down a finding of misconduct for my not declaring a perceived conflict of interest in relation to a community grant for a volunteer group in 2018.

My full statement to council is below and the link to the finding is here: OIA Ruling

Statement by Cr Wilkie to Ordinary Meeting, Thursday, November 17, 2022.

I would like to make a statement regarding a recent decision by the Councillor Tribunal.

This relates to something that occurred almost 4 ½ years ago when the Council considered a round of community grant applications in June 2018 as part of its usual community grant application processes.

One year later in July, 2019, a complaint was made to the Office of the Independent Assessor that I should have declared a conflict of interest in relation to one of the community organizations seeking a Council grant, namely the Peregian Beach Community Association (PBCA).

The PBCA was seeking a grant of $2,000 to create a ring of stones in a public park adjacent to the community kindergarten. 

As a matter of interest, that grant did not proceed as works had already been scheduled as part of the Rufous Street upgrade and was funded by a Federal Building Better Regions Fund grant.

Nevertheless, I was at both the Services and Organisation committee and Council meeting when the Council unanimously approved that conditional community grant as part of the community grants process. I did not declare a conflict of interest at that time. 

The complaint finding referenced my deceased father, who had been a past president of the PBCA before his passing in May 2017. 

As my father had passed away more than 12 months before the matter came before council, it did not occur to me this could possibly be a conflict of interest. 

The complaint also stated I had been a general member of the PBCA from 2014 until June 2017. 

Under the Local Government Act, being a general member of a group does not trigger a conflict of interest. 

As I had not even been a general member for a year before the matter came before council, I also thought this would not be a conflict of interest. 

Electoral Donation

I also received an electoral donation of $200 from Mr Barry Cotterell as part of the 2016 Council election.  Mr Cotterell was PBCA vice-president at the time. 

That amount was recorded on my Electoral Commission register but not on my council register, and is below the current legislative $500 threshold level for COI declarations. This was a genuine oversight on my part.

The complaint cited a “long-standing personal association” with Mr Cotterell as another issue. I had believed that, as my association with Mr Coterrell is principally work related, which is not a COI under the Act, that a declaration was not required.

For the reasons above, and the public nature of the works, I genuinely did not believe that I needed to declare a conflict of interest during the June 2018 community grant round.

Nevertheless, after a three-and-a-half year process and consideration of 271 pages of evidence, it was found that I should have declared a perceived conflict of interest at both the Services and Organisation Committee meeting and the Ordinary Meeting of June 2018.  

I acknowledge the finding of misconduct for not declaring a perceived conflict of interest and admit that I made a genuine mistake in not making those declarations at that time.

I take full responsibility and will learn from my error of judgement. Further, in accordance with the tribunal findings, I undertake to do further training at my own cost in relation to the issue of conflicts of interest. 

I will be seeking a review of this decision via the Queensland Civil Administrative Tribunal and legal advice to provide guidance in future conflict of interest matters, especially in regards to how long I must continue to raise a deceased parent as conflict of interest.

My pledge to councillors here tonight, is that I will continue to discuss potential Conflict Of Interest questions at the time they arise and will not be lodging retrospective complaints against them, as this has been a process I would not wish upon anyone. 

This is a timely reminder that we need to get these issues right 100% of the time, which I always endeavour to do. I will learn from this and continue to focus on applying highest possible standards of good governance for our Council.

The above was posted to my Facebook page on 25 November 2022, and I am buoyed by the comments of support that followed.

Frank Wilkie

Frank Wilkie
Deputy Mayor, Noosa Council

0413 530 587
PO Box 117, Peregian Beach Qld 4573