Tuesday 14 February 2012

Cairns Councillor Sno Bonneau files $300,000 defamation case against colleague

Cairns Regional Councillor Sno Bonneau has filed a statement of claim in the Queensland Supreme Court against fellow Councillor Rob Pyne, for defamation.
  • Outstanding Crime and Misconduct investigations against Councillors Bonneau and Blake need to be concluded before Council candidate nominations close in March.

  • Likely to not withstand trial, Councillor Pyne should be protected by the Whistleblowers Act.

The case is in relation to Councillor Pyne's complaint against Bonneau one year ago when the Council's CEO was asked to act on alleged numerous non-disclosure matters of conflict of interest that Cr Bonneau failed to declare in the last four years whilst voting.

Rob Pyne said the $300,000 lawsuit by Councillor Sno Bonneau, filed in the Supreme Court on 13th February, will not stop him playing a watch dog role on Cairns Regional Council.

“When I stood for Council in 2008 I promised to act as a watch dog and stand up for transparency and accountability,'' Councillor Pyne said. ''This will not change that one bit.”

Cr Pyne filed the complaint on February 15th 2011, and it is believed that Sno Bonneau is taking the action within the 12 month deadline under the statute of limitations.

''When concerns regarding Cr Bonneau came to me from a number of residents over 12 months ago, I reported the allegations to the CEO of Cairns Regional Council. These allegations currently await determination by a Regional Conduct Review Panel,'' Rob Pyne said. ''I believe the list of allegations are serious and required investigation. When this information came to my attention, I felt I had no option of not acting."

This is the first time that a Regional Conduct Review Panel has been convened to resolve a misconduct matter in the history of local government in Far North Queensland.

“This will only sharpen my focus of those in senior positions, whether appointed or elected," Pyne says. ''They have a responsibility to the rest of us, and when there is any suggestion that the trust the public have placed in them has been breached, I will make sure that is investigated.''

''I will remain a committed watch dog, on Council, whoever is elected to Council on April 28th. Attempts at intimidation via legal threats or other means are sure to fail. For me, keeping the bastards honest is as important part of what I am about,” Rob Pyne said.

''Yoy gotta love Council life. He [Bonneau] has buckleys! It won’t stop me asking the hard questions and standing up for my division.''

Although Bonneau's legal action is a civil matter, there are doubts if such a matter will be heard. It is likely that Councillor Pyne will be protected under the Whistleblowers Act that protects a Queensland public servant or public sector employee who makes known for the benefit of the public wrongdoings, which occur in their workplace.

The types of wrongdoings that can be made known are substantial waste of public funds; official misconduct; and maladministration (illegal or oppressive or improper administrative action). The Act protects the whistleblower from anybody retaliating.

Councillor Sno Bonneau, who was first elected as a Councillor in 1995, is being investigated about numerous conflicts of interest that were not declared prior to voting on Council matters, many involved Development Approvals from proponents who donated money to the councillor. Robert Pyne cited a lack of transparency and non disclosure as fundamental conflicts as a councillor.

Pyne told the CEO in February last year that under the Local Government Act, the CEO must act if she "merely suspects" that Councillor Bonneau "may be involved" in any official misconduct."

A respected arts and community administrator, Eve Stafford, said the year-long investigation into Councillor Bonneau is not good enough.

''We need the Regional Conduct Review Panel to bring the investigations into both Cairns Councillors to a conclusion,'' Eve Stafford said. ''When this is likely to be, otherwise it will be very unfair, a gross understatement, to the electorate if both these matters are not resolved one way or the other before Council candidate nominations close.''

In early 2009, there were revelations that Councillor Bonneau was passing on private concerns from residents direct to a developer, in advance of a Council development approval.

The Crime and Misconduct investigation process seems to be the slowest moving regulatory body in Australia. A September 2009 investigation into a Caboolture councillor about no declaration, was only concluded in January 2012, two and a half years after the original complaint.

Cairns Division 5 Councillor Alan Blake, is also under investigation by the Crime and Misconduct Commission for not declaring at least 14 conflicts in the last four years.

1 comment:

:John: Babet, Community Reformation Action Group (CRAG) said...

Salute you Rob Pyne Community Advocate extraordinaire ... we never had a response to our corruption complaint against Byrne to the CMC about 5 years ago ... may you have better fortune against "Sno the people Bonneau" .

You would make an excellent anti corruption Mayor ... all best