Rockhampton MP Barry O’Rourke has slammed the resignation of former Mayor Margaret Strelow as a “childish tantrum” or expensive “stunt”.
Ms Strelow’s resignation this week will lead to a by-election after the State Government decided to change local government laws that would have seen previous runner-up Chris Hooper become mayor of Rockhampton.
It came after a misconduct finding by the Councillor Conduct Tribunal over a day trip to an Adani solar farm in India in 2017, joined by other Queensland regional mayors.
Ms Strelow said the fact she didn’t list the solar farm inspection on her Register of Interests, as opposed to the Register of Sponsored Hospitality, was a deliberate position of principle rather than an administrative oversight.
Mr Rourke said there had been no need for Ms Strelow to resign and that the matter could have been easily put to bed at any point in the last few years.
“Even with this adverse finding from the tribunal, Ms Strelow could have put everything behind her with a simple apology at a council meeting – hardly a big deal” he said.
“Alternatively, she could have chosen to continue fighting this at QCAT. There was simply no reason to resign and her decision cannot be justified rationally. It’s either a childish tantrum or a stunt designed to cause a completely unnecessary by-election.”
Explaining her case on social media, Ms Strelow said she had recorded the Adani solar farm inspection in the same way councillors record all normal sponsored hospitality.
“There is a Register of Sponsored Hospitality. Neither the Independent Assessor nor the Tribunal have even attempted to give a reason why this particular hospitality should be any different to any other,” she said.
“They were afraid to say the name Adani. The fact that I didn’t list the solar farm inspection on my Register of Interests (separate to the Register of Sponsored Hospitality) was not an administrative oversight it was a deliberate position of principle.
“The Register of Interests did not call up official hospitality at the time the solar farm inspection took place. (The Legislation has since been changed.)
“And my refusal to stand in front of my community to confess to misconduct is similarly a position of principle. It would be a forced confession … a very odd thing in a democracy!
“That said, I resigned because I had been found guilty of misconduct and I felt it was the honourable thing to do even though I don’t agree with the finding. I am pleased that the State Government have seen the need to change the legislation that would automatically appoint Pineapple (Chris Hooper). It was appallingly bad legislation. The community deserve a by-election and will get one now.”
Rockhampton Regional Councillors on Tuesday paid tribute to the former mayor.
Acting Mayor Neil Fisher said the resignation announcement had come as a shock.
“There are a lot of people in the community and in council who have been taken aback by her announcement and I want to say to them that we understand that feeling,” Acting Mayor Fisher said.
“Margaret was a fierce advocate for the region and I’d like to pay tribute to her tireless work and dedication during her stewardship of our community.
“Margaret was many things to councillors during her tenure as Mayor. She was a mentor to us when making tough decisions and a calm voice of reason during disasters when our region needed leadership.
“There was a side to Margaret where you could see how deeply she cared not just about the region but the people in it. It was not something you’d see in the media but she did.
“Her years of experience at the table puts us in good stead and councillors are committed to continue working together as a strong team.”
Chief executive officer Evan Pardon said council business would continue as normal while the process for electing a new Mayor was worked through.