by Matthew Purcell
IF it means the betterment of the community, Southern Downs regional councillor Vic Pennisi is prepared to cop negativity on the chin - even the odd threat against his life.
He's faced several unsubstantiated complaints and believes there's been a steady rise in the number of lodged complaints since amalgamation.
"I have had a couple of death threats that were appropriately recorded and then filed in the round filing cabinet," he said. "I have also had three formal complaints and all three have been unsubstantiated. This has come at a substantial cost to ratepayers, and given the potential to abuse the complaints system, I support the conversation that is currently taking place on this issue."
The discussion he refers to is about the complaints process at a state level, with the Local Government (Councillor Complaints) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 introduced on February 15.
"The biggest flaw from my view is that we do not know who lodges complaints," he said.
"Walking down the street, you don't know whether you're going to get a knife in your back. The second flaw is that whilst identity is important to protect, abuse of the system can be real and without any appeal rights.
"Let's say you had an application with council and you thought my vote was different to what you wanted the outcome to be, you could lodge a complaint against me, and because this would then mean that I have a conflict I would have to leave the room for the vote. This means that I would be guilty until proven innocent.
"Thirteen complaints were made to the council in the past financial year, but none were deemed legitimate. However, the cost of processing these complaints has skyrocketed to $122,857 since February 2016.
"In my view, since amalgamation there seems to be a steady increase in the number of formal complaints lodged," he said.
Despite the negativity, Cr Pennisi said seeing positive outcomes for the community made it worth his while.
"When you see an oval of children that are enjoying the facilities that you have helped develop, the negatives disappear."