Councillors in conflict over Liberal Party signs

FOUR Ballarat councillors might not be able to vote on a Liberal Party office signage planning permit.

Councillors Vicki Coltman, Amy Johnson, Samantha McIntosh and mayor Joshua Morris could all have to declare conflicts of interest if the permit comes before a Ballarat City Council meeting.

Cr Coltman is married to the Liberal Party’s Wendouree candidate, Craig Coltman, and is also a Liberal Party member, along with councillors Johnson, McIntosh and Morris.

Cr Johnson is also the local Liberal Party branch vice-president.

Local Government Victoria and the council’s own guidelines said it was each individual councillor’s responsibility to comply with the Local Government Act’s conflict of interest regulations.

The act’s councillor guidelines state a range of ways a conflict of interest could arise, including “conflicting duties”.

This is described as “arising when a person holds any of the following types of positions with a person, company or body that has a direct interest (in an issue), such as a manager or a member of the governing board of the company or body”, which could potentially exclude Cr Johnson.

A councillor checklist for potential conflicts of interest also states: “Do I or any member of my family hold a position in a company or body that is likely to be directly affected (by the issue)”, which could affect councillors Morris and McIntosh.

Cr Coltman already has a direct conflict of issue due to being Mr Coltman’s wife. 

Questions were raised at Wednesday’s council meeting over whether planning permits had been obtained for signs on the newly opened Mair Street office of Mr Coltman and Liberal Party Buninyong candidate Ben Taylor.

Municipal Association of Victoria president Bill McArthur said most local government planning applications were approved under delegation by a council officer with planning expertise.

However, he said: “Often council will call in an application based on the number of objections received by the community for consideration and a decision.”

fiona.henderson@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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