Councillor fails to declare shares in Bunnings
A COUNCILLOR involved in the approval of the new Bunnings warehouse in Toowoomba failed to declare he has shares in Wesfarmers, which owns the hardware giant.
Cr Geoff McDonald remained in council chambers during debate over the controversial CBD development in a committee meeting on Tuesday.
He voted against the Bunnings development, which was approved in a vote of 6-4.
Cr McDonald said his share in Wesfarmers was so insignificant that he doubted he would have a material conflict of interest in the issue.
"However, I will seek advice before the full council meeting next week," he said.
Cr Anne Glasheen, who also owns shares in Wesfarmers, declared her interests and left the meeting.
"That's the exercise," Cr Glasheen said.
"If you have shares in something or an interest, someone is always going to point the finger.
"They'll say because you voted for Bunnings, you stand to increase your returns ... or something like that."
MORE ABOUT THIS STORY
- Council approves Bunnings in Toowoomba CBD
- Bunnings ready to start CBD redevelopment
- Bunnings submits plans for city's new $43m warehouse
- Bunnings to build city's second warehouse at foundry site
- CBD purchase 'vote of confidence' in Toowoomba
The Department of Local Government's guidelines on councillor accountability for ethical and legal behaviour states that a councillor has a conflict of interest, "if their decisions are, or may be seen to be, influenced by their personal interests".
It states that a councillor must declare a conflict if they have "a real or perceived conflict of interest in a matter before the local government.
"The appearance of a conflict of interest can be as serious as an actual conflict because it undermines public confidence in the local government," the guidelines state.
Finally: "If (a councillor) fails to declare or appropriately deal with a conflict of interest you may be guilty of misconduct."
Should Cr Geoff McDonald have declared he has shares in Wesfarmers?
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Mayor Paul Antonio was taken aback by the revelations that Cr McDonald had Wesfarmers shares and did not declare them or leave the meeting.
"I'm knocked for six," he said.
Cr Antonio said it was up to individual councillors to make a call on conflicts of interest, but suggested Cr McDonald would have been better advised not to involve himself in the debate.
"What I normally do, if there is any doubt, I step out," he said.
Council CEO Brian Pidgeon said it "was an individual councillor's responsibility to declare their conflicts of interests or material personal interests and keep relevant personal registers up-to-date".