Division 5 councillor Greg Barnes.
Division 5 councillor Greg Barnes. Max Fleet BUN171114DOG1

Barnes on why he refuses to detail sister city decision

DAYS after resigning from the Sister Cities Advisory Committee, Bundaberg councillor Greg Barnes has explained why he's not prepared to disclose further details about his decision.

Cr Barnes yesterday said he was worried any breach of "confidentiality" could see him in the firing line.

He said Mayor Jack Dempsey constantly reminded councillors before committee meetings that everything discussed was "confidential".

However a Bundaberg Regional Council spokesman said the mayor was simply reminding councillors to abide by council policies and the Local Government Act.

"The mayor has set a high benchmark in relation to governance and following correct procedure," he said.

Yesterday Cr Barnes said he was well aware of council and local government policy but did not want to be accused of breaching confidentiality.

"The mayor has said everything we discuss behind closed doors is confidential," he said.

"Every meeting in the committee room is confidential, in fact we're told things discussed over smoko and lunch are confidential."

Cr Barnes announced in a social media post on Friday that he was leaving the committee for "personal reasons" before telling the NewsMail on Monday he wouldn't comment further due to "confidentiality".

But a council spokesman said  it was unclear what Cr Barnes was alluding to when referring to the confidentiality of his resignation and it was a matter for him whether he chose to explain the reasons.

But, like all councillors, Cr Barnes was expected to abide by the Councillor Use of Confidential Information Policy and the Councillor Code of Conduct policy.

"These policies were adopted by Council and they're publicly available on the Council website," he said.

There's growing sentiment among councillors across the state that they are becoming increasingly hamstrung due to new Belcarra reforms, designed to improve accountability and transparency in local government.

The laws came about in the wake of criminal charges being laid against a number of Queensland mayors and councillors, most notably now jailed former Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale.

Introduced last year, the first round of the Belcarra reforms included the appointment of an independent Assessor to assess complaints against councillors.

In July this year the Office of the independent Assessor said a record 917 complaints were made about councillor conduct in the past financial year, with the OIA receiving 824 complaints in just over six months, 240 in the last quarter.

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