Thursday, February 1, 2024
Mackay and Whitsunday Life
Councillor Laurence Bonaventura, who recently declared his candidacy for mayor, faced a pivotal moment in his political journey as the Mackay Regional Council were required to deliberate on the findings of a conduct breach investigation conducted by the Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA). The untimely occurrence of this vote emerged within 24 hours of Bonaventura's mayoral campaign launch, where he declared he would be running for Mayor as a self-funded independent, promising to deliver brutally honest truth and tackle rising debt.
The debate by councillors brought forth a unique challenge for the council, balancing the scrutiny of conduct standards with the complexities of human interactions.
In last week’s ordinary meeting, Councillor Bonaventura pleaded his case, urging his peers to consider the human context behind the alleged misconduct, pointing out that this was the first time he had been given an opportunity to explain the context behind the interaction. The investigation, conducted by the Office of Independent Assessor (OIA), focused on a conversation between the councillor and a council staff member regarding the refurbishment of 8 River St and staff morale.
The findings pointed to a potential breach of Mackay Regional Council's Councillor Acceptable Requests Guidelines, specifically section 6.1.1. This section outlines the responsibilities of councillors when communicating with council employees, emphasising the need for respectful, reasonable, and professional interactions in accordance with council policies and guidelines and conducted in good faith.
Cr Bonaventura spoke against the findings, arguing that the investigation only considered the cold hard facts and overlooked the human nature behind the conversation. He expressed, "It was a spur of the moment thing born out of my humanness and wanting an end to this mess that was affecting staff morale at council. Where is that line?"
He urged the council to deliberate on whether "what was a casual unplanned conversation from someone holding the door open in which I asked a question that was appropriately answered forms grounds for a conduct breach."
Cr Bonaventura presented a series of questions for the council to consider in determining a conduct breach: "Did I deliberately approach the staff member with the intent to gain information? Did I gain any advantage from my discussion? Did I attempt to influence the staff member's future actions?"
He further emphasised, "Councillors, I was only displaying an interest in what the staff member was currently doing. The staff member volunteered information about the team morale, and that was of genuine concern to me.
“The only way to improve morale would be when a decision was made, hence the spur-of-the-moment question that is at the centre of this matter."
Councillors voted on the motion concerning the investigation results, with Cr Bella being the sole dissenting vote. They affirmed the findings of the Office of the Independent Assessor, declaring that Councillor Bonaventura breached the Local Government Act and then voted upon what action should be taken.
The disciplinary actions imposed on Councillor Bonaventura include a public apology, reimbursement of $2700 in costs, informing the OIA of the outcomes, and attaching the investigation report to the council meeting minutes.
At his campaign launch, Cr Bonaventura spoke of the need to lead a council that was compassionate and caring, to consider the human needs of the community.
Cr Bonaventura during a previous council meeting