The federal Opposition Leader and Queensland’s Environment Minister have echoed criticism of a south-east Queensland mayor who admitted to getting behind the wheel and crashing her car after drinking “several glasses of wine” on Thursday night.
- Ms Williams has been an advocate for the families of victims killed by drunk drivers
- Redlands councillors have condemned the mayor’s actions
- Ms Williams has stepped down from her role on the Brisbane Olympics committee
Redland City Council Mayor Karen Williams said she was “deeply sorry” but had no plans to step down from the top job, which she had held for 10 years.
On Saturday, state MP Don Brown urged Ms Williams to tender her resignation over the incident and fellow councillors have condemned her actions.
Minister for Youth Affairs and the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef Meaghan Scanlon today echoed those comments.
“It’s good that she has acknowledged at least that she shouldn’t have driven under the influence,” she said.
“But it’s pretty untenable for a mayor to remain in that position — particularly given some of the horrible things that have happened to families in her own community that she said that she would advocate for.”
Ms Williams recently joined the families of Matthew Field and Kate Leadbetter in calling for tougher youth justice laws, after they were struck and killed by a stolen car driven by a teenager under the influence of drugs and alcohol in 2021.
She was the principal petitioner behind an online petition to appeal the sentence of the now 18-year-old driver, which has more than 50,000 signatures.
Ms Williams met with members of victims’ families via zoom just hours before the crash.
Ms Williams said on Saturday she had spoken to the families since the incident.
“I have spoken to those families and I will continue to offer any support that they may require,” she said.
Ms Scanlon said she did not believe Ms Williams could continue as mayor.
“When you look at the fact that Karen Williams was on the phone to families who had lost a loved one to drink driving and then an hour later got in the car under the influence, that’s pretty untenable,” she said.
“I absolutely understand why some of these victims’ families are calling for the resignation of that one mayor.”
Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton expressed a similar sentiment.
“I think the message here is that people have to take responsibility for their own actions, and drink driving is completely unacceptable,” he said.
“My message, particularly as a former police officer, is to not have that extra drink. Don’t drink and drive. I mean, there’s no excuse for it, and the consequences can be deadly.”
In her role as mayor, Ms Williams was appointed to the Brisbane Organising Committee for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
However, Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said that she had informed him she “won’t be continuing as a member”.
Councillors chime in
Councillor Adelia Berridge posted on social media to call for Ms Williams to step down from her role.
“I think the mayor needs to resign,” she said.
“I have immense respect for our CEO and the team he leads. I called him today to discuss my situation and advise him I’m now publicly requesting for the mayor to resign. I had hoped I would not have to do this, but the CEO can’t ask for her resignation.
“I have previously raised three complaints including the CCC about the booze parties and I hope now this will change.”
Councillor Peter Mitchell has said the mayor “will have to own her mistake and any consequence”.
“As a councillor, I will be seeking all pertinent police and related statutory information and discussing implications further with colleagues and [the] council CEO,” he said.
On Saturday, councillor Wendy Boglary told the ABC the incident did not reflect the council’s culture.
“I don’t think there is a drinking culture in the council, however, there may be some individual councillors who have a drinking culture,” she said.
“What has occurred with Mayor Karen Williams was her own individual choice to drink and drive her car.”
In a statement, a Local Government Association of Queensland spokesperson said the outcome should be decided by the police.
“As community leaders, elected members are rightfully held to a higher standard by the people they represent,” they said.
“The matter is currently with the police and the authorities should now be left to do their job.”
Redland City Council will meet on Monday.
On the ground, Redlands residents are dismayed by the mayor’s actions.
Local Cassandra Scott described the incident as “appalling”.
“It’s about leading by example and she hasn’t done a great job of that,” she said.
“She’s certainly got a look at her role and the leadership that she’s presented in the area and see whether or not those two positions currently align.”
Another local, Caradine Thompson, labelled Ms Williams’s decision to drive as “pretty slack”.
“I definitely think that’s something worth losing your job over it. If she’s supposed to be like a role model for everyone then she shouldn’t be doing stuff like that,” Ms Thompson said.
Redlands councillors have also commented on the situation.
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