Mayor puts an end to Chinese whispers

MINUTES from a Whitsunday Regional Council meeting on July 22 stating Mayor Jennifer Whitney had a business-related interest with Whitsunday Chinatown Investments have caused so much grief the mayor sought to have them officially amended last week.

Cr Whitney has always maintained her conflict of interest over the development at Waterson Way was simply "perceived", arising from a delegation to China where some of her flights and accommodation were paid for by the Chinese.

As such, she excused herself from the ordinary council meeting on July 22 when a motion was carried to advise Whitsunday Chinatown Investments to lodge a development application under its current contract.

It was at a subsequent meeting to confirm the minutes, held while Cr Whitney was on leave, that she was recorded as leaving the room because of a business-related interest.

"There is no such thing as a business conflict of interest or a business material personal interest," she told her councillors last week, adding "no one is sure how that got into there" and "it is a non-event".

Councillor Dave Clark said he thought the matter was before the Crime and Corruption Commission, adding "I don't know how we're even able to discuss this here today".

Deputy Mayor Andrew Willcox questioned why, four months after the event, Cr Whitney wanted to change the minutes.

"You state the reason as a minor administrative error (but) how can the secretary and the councillors who confirmed the minutes get it so wrong?" he asked.

"Having a business relationship with interested parties doesn't sound anything like having a perceived conflict of interest.

"I note in the past that you have declared a conflict of interest, a business interest, a perceived conflict of interest and now today there's obviously some self-interest.

"I can tell everybody here today that this has certainly raised my interest," he said.

"I'm glad it has," Cr Whitney replied. "This is very mischievous."

"I trusted what I had said at that meeting and because I was on leave it taught me a lesson that I will read those minutes and make sure I've got involvement even if I am on leave or absent," she said.

Cr Whitney said amending the minutes was her chance "to right that wrong" and acting chief executive officer Barry Omundson assured councillors it was perfectly legal to do so.

The motion was passed four votes to three, with councillors Ramage, Clark and Willcox against it and councillor Clark calling for a division.

Topics:  chinatown local government

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