A southern Queensland Mayor has been fined nearly $15,000 after he was found to have engaged in misconduct in his dealings with the Melbourne-to-Brisbane Inland Railway project.
In an interview with the ABC in 2017, Councillor Paul Antonio, who owns a gravel quarry near Millmerran on the route chosen by the Federal Government, conceded he stood to benefit from the inland rail project.
The ABC revealed, Cr Antonio personally paid $4,900 to have an alternate route for the project investigated, which took the line to the very edge of his quarry.
Cr Antonio told the ABC he paid for the map to find an alternative that did not go through prime agricultural land in Millmerran, to help affected farmers.
After initially telling the ABC he gave the map only to one Millmerran farmer, he later conceded he provided the map to former industry minister Ian MacFarlane, who is now the chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council, and the Federal Member for Groom, John McVeigh.
The matter was referred to the Local Government Regional Conduct Review Panel in April 2018 after a complaint was made by a fellow councillor and a member of the public.
The panel decided the complaint of misconduct was sustained.
‘Disappointed in the decision’
In a statement, Cr Antonio said the panel found he had:
- Failed to disclose a material personal interest, namely his ownership of a quarry, to a council committee
- Failed to act in an honest or impartial manner
- Was not sufficiently candid when he participated in a television interview with an ABC journalist in September of 2017, when he was questioned, without notice, about his dealings with a constituent.
Cr Antonio was fined $14.360.50, ordered to undergo counselling, make an admission of error, and apologise at the next council meeting.
The panel also recommended the Local Government Department’s chief executive officer monitor Cr Antonio for compliance with the Local Government Act.
Cr Antonio said he was “very disappointed in the decision” and said he had disclosed his ownership of the quarry on his register of personal interests lodged with the council.
“Cr Antonio also considers he was denied procedural fairness in the hearing process and so the findings of the panel are fundamentally flawed,” he said in a statement.
He said he was considering his legal options and could appeal against the findings in the Queensland Supreme Court.
The matter has been referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC).
The CCC said the matter would be assessed in line with standard processes.
“It is important to note that an assessment is not an investigation,” a spokesman said.
“When the CCC receives a complaint or a referral, it first conducts an assessment to determine whether the matter falls within the CCC’s jurisdiction, whether an investigation is warranted, and, if so, which agency should be responsible.”
The CCC said it would be inappropriate to comment further.