Friday, March 17, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

“This Is Just Bulls**t, It Really Is”: Councillor Fined For Facebook Flub

Whitsunday Regional Councillor Mike Brunker was fined $500 at last Wednesday’s ordinary meeting for the “misuse of Council resources” during the previous Mayoral Election.

Mr Brunker was found to have breached Council Policy by listing his Council email address on his mayoral candidacy Facebook page during the by-election of July – August 2022, equating to an “unauthorised use of Council resources”.

Councillor Brunker sincerely apologised for the actions that were brought to Council, “unbelievable as they are”.

“People would come up to me and say, what have you done? I’d say, I expect to do five years in Etna Creek [Referencing the Capricornia Correctional Centre on Etna Creek Road] for what I’ve done,” Mr Brunker said.

“I tell them I had a Facebook page titled Mayoral Candidate and I had a Council email address on that Facebook page and they start laughing.

“They say, are you joking? I should have done something about it [the email address], and for that I’m very apologetic. But this accusation, although technically right, is absolutely laughable.”

Mr Brunker said he was “embarrassed for the failed mayoral candidate who has lodged this complaint.”

“To think that the only thing you can do through the whole Mayoral race is look around and sling some mud on someone,” he said.

“To think this is Watergate and you’re going to bring down the entire Council and the State Government.

“I hope the next time something as simplistic as this comes up, that we don’t spend ten-thousand dollars on such an investigation.”

Mr Brunker was referring to the initial complaint launched by then mayoral candidate Phillip Batty, who said he was “neither embarrassed nor ashamed”, having lodged the issue against each of the three Councillors running for the position and had simply hoped to “level the playing field” and follow legislation.

Mr Batty said discussions began in July 2022 when he emailed previous Whitsunday Regional Council CEO Rod Ferguson about the issue, hoping Council would raise it with the Councillors – which they did.

Mr Ferguson then deferred the complaint to the Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA).

“I did not make a complaint at the outset,” Mr Batty said.

“[Council] advised Councillor Brunker on two occasions in writing in July 2022 of his obligations under the act [to not utilise Local Government assets during an election]. Whitsunday Regional Council elected to have the complaint heard by the OIA.”

Independent assessors PFK Integrity, contracted by the local Council, then substantiated the claims that Councillor Brunker’s Council email address appeared on his Facebook page titled ‘Michael Brunker – Mayoral Candidate for Whitsundays’ during the election campaign.

The findings from the independent assessors – which cost $11,500 to ratepayers - were presented for decision to Whitsunday Regional Councillors at the Wednesday, March 8, Ordinary Council Meeting.

Whitsunday Mayor Julie Hall said, although the misconduct was administrative in nature, it was still a breaking of the Local Government Act.

“Unfortunately, it is the rules,” Mayor Hall said.

“The Local Government Act, whether we agree with it or not, that is the legislation and the Act. If we go against it, are we setting a precedent to say we will not abide by legislation and the act?

“Councillor Brunker is one of our longest serving members of Council and therefore I feel that he possibly should have known better. He was also warned.”

Councillor Clay Bauman agreed: “We’re here to cross the t-s and dot the i-s according to legislation. I’m not happy with the expense but I’m happy with the report on the investigation.”

Councillors, aside from Michelle Wright and John Collins – with Councillor Collins calling the entire misconduct claim “Bulls**t” - agreed to fine Mr Brunker $500 and that he attends training related to his misconduct.

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