Questions over early election after council suspensions
A REVIEW of local government electorate boundaries could be the fly in the ointment for holding fresh council elections in Logan.
An election was one of the options Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe was seeking legal advice on over the weekend, after seven more Logan City councillors were suspended on fraud-related charges on Friday.
Councillors Russell Lutton, Steve Swenson, Laurie Smith, Cherie Dalley, Phil Pidgeon, Trevina Schwarz and Jennie Breene were charged on Friday with offences related to the sacking of former CEO Sharon Kelsey.
All will defend the charges against them.
Two other councillors mayor Luke Smith and Cr Stacey McIntosh were suspended in May.
On Friday, Mr Hinchliffe said he had a range of options to consider for the dysfunctional council.
Before he can call elections, the boundaries of the city's 12 electorates would have to be redrawn to compensate for a massive population boom in Division 4, currently held by Cr Laurie Koranski, one of four councillors who did not get charged last week.
The council would also have to be dismissed for an early election to be called which would preclude four councillors, who were not charged, from running before the fixed-term election in March.
A Local Government Department spokesman said an election could "theoretically occur" before finalising the boundary review.
"But it is one of the factors the minister may wish to consider in determining the practicality of when an election will take place".
On the weekend, ratepayers called for the minister to dissolve council and appoint an administrator and four advisers.
Logan Ratepayers Association president Rod Shaw said ratepayers advocated Gary Kellar, a former Logan City Council chief executive for 25 years and the four remaining councillors - Lisa Bradley, Laurie Koranski, Jon Raven and Darren Power - to be appointed as advisers.
"We call on you, as the responsible Minister, to dissolve council and so obviate the requirement for salary maintenance for those councillors charged," Mr Shaw wrote in a letter to the minister.
"It would also result in collateral financial damage for the four councillors not charged and who have done no wrong.
"We suggest that the government appoint them as advisers responsible for three electoral divisions each.
"This will provide continuity of service for the ratepayers until the next local government elections due in March 2020."
Cr Raven said it was unlikely an election would be held before the obligatory March poll or before the boundaries were redrawn.
"Even if an election were called before March, there is the issue of having two elections within months, which would not benefit anyone and ratepayers would bear the cost of two elections, which are not cheap," Cr Raven said.
The Electoral Commission of Queensland started electoral boundary reviews last month and Logan council started an assessment this month after ECQ said a citywide review was necessary.
ECQ said two of the city's 12 electorates breached the 10 per cent tolerance of a voter quota of 15,000.
Cr Koranski's Division 4 had the highest number of voters with 18,710 and Division 8, which was held by acting mayor Cherie Dalley, had the lowest with 14,034 voters.
Across the city, there were 191,000 enrolled.
Confidential discussions this month to map out where possible new boundaries could be drawn, raised the ire of the four remaining councillors, who said the debate should be public.
ECQ said over the past three-year term, Logan had become home to large housing estates at Yarrabilba, Flagstone Park Ridge and Logan Reserve.
Logan divisions 4, 9 and 11 were singled out as examples of electorates where there had been a spike in population growth.
Council will draft a submission which will be given to ECQ and opened up for public debate before the commission will make its decision and issue public maps of the new boundaries by November.
The last time boundaries were redrawn in Logan was in May 2015.
Many council functions have been cancelled over the weekend and residents' groups have expressed anger that some of the city's biggest projects were left hanging after Friday's suspensions.
Mayoral candidate Stewart Fleming said an early election was needed to keep "the city moving forward".
Questions remained over a number of large projects in the city including the extension of a shopping centre and the future of a controversial crematorium, approved for Bethania.
The crematorium's approval in December sparked massive backlash from ratepayers, claiming their concerns were not heeded because their divisional councillor was on suspension facing fraud charges.
Resident advocate Diana Howes said the matter was now before a planning court after council-imposed conditions were questioned by the developer James Family Trust.
"Bethania ratepayers want an assurance from council it will defend the strict conditions it imposed in December - we asked for that assurance at a community meeting on January 19 but we still haven't got it," she said. The case is set down for a May 30 hearing.
Another project, an extension to the Holmview Central Shopping Centre, is before council for assessment.
Mr Hinchliffe was expected to make an announcement about the council's fate and whether an administrator would be appointed this week.
But it is still unknown whether the decision will be before Ms Kelsey's unfair dismissal case is back before the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission on Thursday for closing remarks.