Barcaldine Regional Council mayor Sean Dillon says he is relieved the Office of the Independent Assessor has dismissed a complaint against him regarding public comments he made about the COVID vaccine rollout in Barcaldine, but says the wider implications for mayors standing up for their communities has not been resolved.
It was revealed last October that Cr Dillon was being investigated by the OIA for alleged potential misconduct, which stemmed from questions and comments he made when being presented with the Central West Hospital and Health Service vaccine roll-out plan by the council's deputy CEO, who had been briefed by Queensland Health officials.
Cr Dillon said at the time his only option if he wasn't cleared would be to resign.
In announcing the dismissal, the OIA said the mayor's comments in a live-streamed council meeting were in reaction to incorrect information provided by a council officer about the proposed vaccine rollout.
"The incorrect information was that the HHS was proposing to vaccinate whole towns in one day," the statement read.
"There was also a miscommunication within council about the priority vaccination of the elderly.
"The mayor's comments were further published on a local news site, which also raised the conduct of the mayor in making the statements."
It said that in deciding to dismiss the complaint, the Independent Assessor took into account that the mayor's statements were made in response to incorrect information and that the council subsequently worked effectively with the HHS in delivering the vaccine rollout.
The Local Government Association of Queensland has also welcomed the decision, maintaining the complaint should never have progressed to an investigation that has taken almost 12 months to resolve.
LGAQ CEO Alison Smith said mayors and councillors should have the same implied right to freedom of political expression as their state and federal colleagues.
"Any move to impinge on this right is overreach that undermines the role of an elected representative in Queensland."
Cr Dillon believes there is still an issue of freedom of speech to be resolved, but the OIA maintains that it did not investigate Cr Dillon for voicing his opinion.
"The OIA has dismissed several other complaints about councillors publicly voicing their opinion about COVID directions and mandates, recognising that it is critical to an elected representative's role that they advocate for, and represent the interests of, their constituents," the statement said.
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