Southern Downs Regional Council CEO David Keenan has defended the practice of taking detailed file notes on interactions with residents.
Southern Downs Regional Council CEO David Keenan has defended the practice of taking detailed file notes on interactions with residents. Marian Faa

Council CEO found taking 'bizarre' notes about residents

SPEAKING out in defence of the "bizarre" notes he recorded about local residents, Southern Downs CEO David Keenan said he was aware some members of the community appeared intent on finding out where he lived.

The CEO's response came after file notes containing what parties have said are "strange" and "disturbing" details of his interactions with residents were uncovered through information privacy law.

Two women, who wish to protect their identities, said they were shocked to discover hundreds of documents containing their names and "bizarre" details about them in public places.

A number of these were file notes that appear to show a culture of meticulous record- keeping in the upper echelon of the council.

Addressed to a human resources manager, the CEO's emails describe encounters with one woman in Rose City Shoppingworld during business hours.

"I purchased some sushi and then went to Woolworths," one note by Mr Keenan reads.

"I noticed (X) on her way out of the supermarket with a trolley ... On the way out I noticed that (X) appeared ready and waiting to give me a nasty, aggressive stare and a scowl. I did not respond."

Mr Keenan said it wasn't the first time the woman had "waited" for him outside the supermarket.

But the woman, who works in Rose City Shoppingworld, said she felt her privacy was being threatened.

"There is one (note) of me under the car park, he describes my car, the colour and everything," she said.

Notes about the same woman have also been recorded by human resources manager Brook March, detailing the woman's movements in a supermarket and reports of repeated "glaring".

 

Southern Downs mayor Tracy Dobie has defended the CEO's actions saying file notes are an essential practice of any workplace.
Southern Downs mayor Tracy Dobie has defended the CEO's actions saying file notes are an essential practice of any workplace. Marian Faa

"I walked down the freezer section and, when walking down the section, I sighted (X) who was located mid-way down the aisle," a note by Ms March stated.

"(X) seen me and proceeded to walk down the aisle."

When asked whether he told other staff members to take notes on the woman, the CEO said direction was given to all council officers to take file notes "where appropriate".

Since discovering the records and thousands of other pages containing her name, the woman reported she had been suffering anxiety attacks.

She worried the notes made her out to look like a "stalker", a suggestion she strongly denied.

Mr Keenan said file notes were taken when there were ongoing investigations "requested" by specific members of the community and said it was an issue the council had come under fire for in the past.

He said making file notes was good and standard practice. "Council officers have been criticised in the past for not taking file notes. File notes are especially important when matters or complaints are ongoing with other agencies," he said.

But the second woman involved questioned the level of detail and whether it was an appropriate use of council time and resources.

"It's all about control, they want to have control everywhere," she said.

But the CEO said file notes were not an "unnecessary" use of time and resources.

"File notes are important in informing the complaints processes and investigations," Mr Keenan said.

It is understood both women have made official complaints about the council in the past.

"How many other people who have made complaints with council have a file like this?" one of the women asked.



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