Mayor calls on councillors to ignore Facebook comments

SUBURBAN WARS: Alexandra Hills resident Dan Ling has complained to police, council and the CCC after a Facebook altercation led to personal confrontation with Cr Paul Gleeson.
SUBURBAN WARS: Alexandra Hills resident Dan Ling has complained to police, council and the CCC after a Facebook altercation led to personal confrontation with Cr Paul Gleeson.

FACEBOOK combatant Dan Ling has lodged a complaint with the Crime and Corruption Commission that Redland City councillor Paul Gleeson used a council-paid mobile phone to threaten him over Facebook comments he had made.

The pair faced off through Mr Ling’s front door at his Alexandra Hills home last week after a series of Facebook posts on the community group Redlands2030 site.

Mr Gleeson first phoned Mr Ling and when Mr Ling did not answer the phone, went to his home to “counsel him” on his comments.

Mr Ling has also complained to police and Redland City Council about Cr Gleeson’s visiting and allegedly threatening him. Oddly, a second councillor, Murray Elliott, was in the kitchen at Mr Ling’s home and a witness when Cr Gleeson arrived.

Cr Gleeson said he went to Mr Ling’s home when he did not answer his phone, left when asked and had done nothing wrong.

He said Mr Ling had crossed a line in bringing personal issues into a Facebook debate and he was considering legal action.

The issue prompted mayor Karen Williams to call on councillors to ignore social media comments.

“Social media is an important communication tool that helps us connect with the community but there is no doubt some people use it to sling mud ... and it is incumbent on councillors to ignore these people,” she said.

“...I have asked the CEO (Andrew Chesterman) to remind all councillors of their obligations and our community’s expectations and I have spoken separately to the councillor involved.”

Mr Ling said the CCC had asked him if he had confidence in the matter being handled by council but he did not.

He said it appeared Cr Williams was not able to control Cr Gleeson who had been in trouble over social media issues previously.

Cr Williams said due process would be followed regarding Mr Ling’s complaint. She did not have the power to dismiss councillors. ​“The local government minister has that power,” she said.

Local Government Minister Mark Furner said that as the matter had been referred to police, he would not comment. He did not respond to questions about his powers to sack a councillor.

In 2009 amendments were introduced to allow a minister to sack councillors but only if their actions were deemed to have disrupted council operations.

The councillors' code of conduct says councillors must ensure their personal conduct does not reflect adversely on council and that they should demonstrate respect for community.

Social media has been an enduring problem for council and councillors, with the organisation and its representatives censured by the State Ombudsman in January over legal threats made to people who made Facebook comments.

In May a brawl also broke out between local LNP identities MP Andrew Laming and former state MP Peter Dowling on Facebook.