CONFLICT: It was voted that Greg Barnes had a conflict of interest relating to the Bargara development and was asked to leave the room for the vote.
CONFLICT: It was voted that Greg Barnes had a conflict of interest relating to the Bargara development and was asked to leave the room for the vote. TAHLIA STEHBENS

Word by word: Barnes makes his case

BARGARA councillor Greg Barnes was unexpectedly removed from voting on the Jewel development on Monday.

After Mayor Jack Dempsey asked the councillors present to identify any actual or perceived conflicts of interests, Cr Barnes addressed the room with submissions that continued for more than 10 minutes.

The following is an edited transcript of the dramatic events that unfolded.

 

 

Cr Barnes: "Councillors, I make the following declarations having sought advice from the Integrity Commission of Queensland and also my own legal advice.

I wish to inform the meeting that I may have a perceived conflict of interest following an item which I wish to address.

I had been excluded from a pre-budget meeting with the applicant in relation to Jewel development when another councillor, with no relation to buildings, was invited exclusively to attend such meeting.

Both myself and the community were advised the applicant's choice of attendees was a matter of policy.

I've since been advised that there is in fact no policy and in turn the policy was used loosely and incorrectly. Indeed I've learnt the very application for pre-lodgement meeting provides only two boxes for the applicant to tick, should the council be requested to attend.

What I saw (on the application) were options for the divisional councillor and the other planning development portfolio spokesperson, but there were no options for the attendance of another councillor.

I'm aware this information could result in the perception that I feel aggrieved on my exclusion, which could result in a perceived conflict of interest.

I've taken advice on this matter and I reject such a suggestion, and having clarified this conflict I believe I can participate and vote on this matter...

Cr Barnes then identified a second perceived conflict of interest from a briefing meeting earlier this year."

Cr Barnes: "Secondly on January 22, 2018 I submitted a notice of motion be placed on the agenda of the briefing meeting to be held on January 24, 2018.

The briefing meeting was to discuss and clarify general items for the ordinary meeting scheduled for February 27, 2018 including the application which is coming up before council in relation to the Jewel esplanade.

Prior to the commencement of the briefing meeting I noticed the motion had not been placed on the agenda. I was informed they wanted to discuss that in the confidential part of the meeting.

Once behind closed doors I was verbally set upon by three councillors who attacked my integrity and motivation resulting in the worst demonstration of intimidation that I have witnessed in my career.

I left that meeting in disbelief and was sick all night. The next morning I collapsed in my home and was transported by ambulance to hospital for treatment.

As disgusted as I was by this incident, and having clarified this perceived conflict of interest with the integrity commissioner and through legal advice I believe I can participate in the matter."

Cr Barnes then detailed a third perceived conflict of interest which involved a council trip to Nanning, China, in September.

The councillor said the itinerary had been updated on the date of travel to the city and, unbeknown to him, it included a dinner with Jewel developer, Sheng Wei.

Cr Barnes: "I was confused as to why, on a sister city delegation, we were suddenly meeting with a developer who was involved with a controversial development at Bargara.

The dinner took place as scheduled, and I was seated beside Mr Wei. He asked me why I didn't like his development proposal and when I advised him the Bargara community treasured its village-like atmosphere and were opposed to globalised development, within seconds he responded and said 'okay Mr Barnes, I tell my people to stop and make it five-storeys only'.

I was amazed at the sudden statement, and to make sure there was no misunderstanding, and that the other delegates were aware of the commitment, I thanked him on a number of occasions in their direct presence, and he confirmed that by saying 'no problem'.

On return to Australia I invited Mr Wei and his wife to dinner so I could repay his hospitality. That dinner took place on October 7, and I met all of the costs."

Another perceived conflict detailed the receipt of a parcel on October 19, 2017 which contained several books on Nanning architecture and a picture, which he said had been "extensively damaged through freight."

Cr Barnes: "The parcel had been delivered to a fish farm, of which I'm a shareholder, whilst the books were obviously meant for council because they were all the same book.

I was concerned about the receipt of an unwanted and unsolicited yet damaged picture, and my wife and I were somewhat suspicious about the inclusion of the picture and the fact that the parcel had been addressed to me personally at the fish farm so we threw the picture in the box trailer destined for the tip.

To save face I thanked Mr Wei for the gift, and the books were delivered to council and distributed amongst my colleagues.

Even though the mention of hospitality and gifts were not a requirement of declaration in the local government act, or regulation, I included them on my register of interest, in the interest of discrepency.

I've sought the advice from the Queensland Integrity Commissioner in relation to this matter who has commended me for, quote 'acting in transparency in promoting public confidence in the decision making of council.' I've also got an extended significant cost in seeking my own legal advice which concurs with that of the integrity commissioner."

Councillor Helen Blackburn asked Cr Barnes to "please explain comments you made in the council room where you stated you would allow this development to go ahead over your dead body".

Cr Barnes: "There is absolutely no way that I would support, and never have supported, anything over five storeys.

"Yes, I probably did say it, and I'd say it again."

Councillors Judy Peters, Steve Cooper, Bill Trevor, Ross Sommerfeld, Helen Blackburn and Jack Dempsey voted Cr Barnes did have a perceived conflict of interest.



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