Revealed: Text behind councillor’s 17th offence
THE text message behind a 17th upheld misconduct allegation against a southeast Queensland councillor has been revealed.
Redland city councillor Paul Gleeson was last month found guilty of intimidating a woman via text message, bringing to total count of upheld allegations to 17.
Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian yesterday said Cr Gleeson was found guilty of misconduct by the Councillor Conduct Tribunal - the body responsible hearing matters of alleged councillor misconduct and imposing the appropriate sanctions - after sending an intimidating text message to a woman who was both a complainant and a witness in previous misconduct proceedings against him.
Ms Florian said the woman had initially made a complaint to the Office of the independent Assessor (OIA) about the councillor abusing her online, which included publication of her photograph and personal details and that the matter had been referred to the tribunal for a verdict.
In June 2019, Cr Gleeson used his council-listed mobile phone to send text messages to the woman and her husband threatening to take legal action for slander and defamation, based on comments made in her complaint.
Cr Gleeson, who in November took a leave of absence following previous controversy, today revealed the content of the text message.
He said the message read: "Please be advised that once your complaint becomes a public document I will be seeking damages for slander and defamation. I have also advised the OIA of this."
He said he sent the message before the content of the woman's complaint was publicly published as part of investigation proceedings.
Mr Gleeson said while the accusations had affected his role as a councillor, the reason behind the complaints was linked to circumstances in his personal life.
"It essentially has nothing to do … with my role at council," he said.
Ms Florian said that at the time the text messages were sent the woman's complaint was before the tribunal.
On August 16 last year the tribunal found Cr Gleeson had committed misconduct as a result of his online behaviour.
He was additionally found to have engaged in three other instances of misconduct, also relating to his online behaviour as well as threats made to another councillor.
At the time the tribunal ordered Cr Gleeson pay $2100 in fines over a six-month period.
A further wave of accusations followed and on December 15, Cr Gleeson was found guilty by the tribunal of sending threatening text messages to the woman and her husband during the previous proceedings for which he was fined $700 and ordered to publicly admit to the conduct breach.
"The tribunal found the message was intended to intimidate the woman from making any further complaints or disclosures to the OIA, which investigates councillor conduct and refers serious matters to the tribunal," Ms Florian said.
"It found the messages could also be seen as an attempt to interfere with a witness.
"The tribunal took into account the purpose of disciplinary proceedings, the councillor's disciplinary history, his escalating conduct, lack of remorse or insight into his own conduct, and his decision to voluntarily taking leave of absence from the council.
"The tribunal noted that had Cr Gleeson not decided to take a leave of absence, a recommendation by the tribunal to the Local Government Minister 'for a period of suspension may have been considered appropriate in order to ensure that the councillor took the time needed to obtain any support necessary to develop greater insight into his past behaviour, and how such behaviour should change if he were to continue in the role of a Councillor'."
According to the Redland City Council's Councillor Conduct Register, Cr Gleeson has now accrued 17 sustained allegations of misconduct and inappropriate conduct since the last election, while a further inappropriate conduct claim was part-substantiated.
The councillor returned for his first council meeting today, a special meeting about a proposed unit development at Wellington Point.
He said while he had taken the leave of absence, he had still be in touch with local residents from his division about council matters.
"I've been engaging with residents all the way through (my leave)."
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