Noosa Deputy Mayor Frank Wilkie.
Noosa Deputy Mayor Frank Wilkie. Contributed

Noosa Deputy Mayor under conflict of interest investigation

NOOSA Deputy Mayor Frank Wilkie is being investigated over a complaint alleging he failed to declare a conflict of interest in a controversial surf club expressions of interest process.

Cr Wilkie said while he couldn't predict what the result would be, he couldn't understand how any allegation of conflict of interest could be upheld.

The Office of the Independent Assessor, a body established in 2018 to handle council complaints, confirmed it was investigating a matter involving Cr Wilkie.

Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian confirmed the matter was ongoing and if the OIA had a "reasonable belief" that a councillor had committed misconduct after its investigation, the matter could be referred to the Councillor Conduct Tribunal for a determination.

The Daily understood a complaint was made to the OIA in early-May, alleging a long-standing association between Cr Wilkie and the Peregian Beach Community Association.

It was alleged Cr Wilkie had been "instrumental" in assisting the Association prepare and potentially submit an expression of interest for the use of the space at the controversial Peregian Beach Surf Club.

It was further alleged that in a council meeting on March 12, when voting to proceed with the EOI process, Cr Wilkie didn't declare a conflict of interest in relation to his involvement with the Association.

Cr Wilkie said the OIA would make its own determination, but he personally couldn't understand how the allegations could be upheld.

"This not-for-profit community organisation did not even make an EOI submission and I am not a committee member, nor even a member of that group," Cr Wilkie said.

Cr Wilkie said he'd lived in Peregian for 25 years and over that time had "assisted all Peregian-based organisations with information and advice".

"They include, The Peregian Beach Community House, Peregian Beach Permaculture Gardens, Peregian Beach Community Association, Peregian Beach Business Association, Peregian Beach Surf Lifesaving Club and more recently the Ocean Life Saving Association and Peregian Beach Family and Friends," he said.

He said the advice he had under the Local Government Act was that a councillor had to declare a conflict of interest if they were a committee member of a group with a matter before the council.

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"I am not a committee member nor even a member of any of the above organisations and the PBCA were not among the groups who made a submission in the EOI process," Cr Wilkie said.

"I respectfully suggest the anonymous complaint, and the decision to make it public, typifies the divisive and wasteful tactics used by some on the surf club issue, which is disappointing when the offer to work together in good faith still remains."

Ms Florian said the OIA requested complainants and councillors kept matters under investigation confidential and noted "this has been breached in this case".

While Cr Wilkie's matters were yet to be fully investigated and any decision reached, Ms Florian explained the Tribunal could impose a range of sanctions including a councillor making a public acknowledgment of misconduct at a council meeting, or fines, as part of its powers.

"The OIA is also able to prosecute a number of integrity offences which, on conviction, automatically trigger a person's disqualification from being a councillor for four years," Ms Florian said.