Firstly: The verdict is in and the Mayor has been found to be NOT GUILTY by the Office of Local Government in the Code of Conduct raised against her for her Mayoral Minute. A quick recap of the class Code of Conduct that was initiated by the more than 30 co-signatories of the community before we go into the OLG's findings: Eurobodalla Shire Council's Mayor, Clr Liz Innes, introduced a mayoral minute at Council's meeting of 27 March 2018. It was 15 pages, 6412 words and was considered by those who read it to have elements that would need research or a lot of consideration by the councillors before coming to a decision. It was also deemed, by those who read it, to contain matters that were routine and not urgent. In her own words Mayor Innes said during the April 10th, 2018 Council meeting in regards to her 15 page, 6412 word Mayoral Minute that Councillors only had 15 minutes to read: “Are you aware that leading up to councillors making a decision we have a number of meetings, and councillors are absolutely given the opportunity to ask questions of anyone they see fit? “I absolutely disagree with you that councillors had a lack of time". With such a public admission by the Mayor that the matter was indeed routine and could well have waited, with no urgency at all until the next Council meeting it was strongly felt that the Mayoral Minute, as delivered, had no urgency and should not have been presented as it also introduced issues that required further research and consideration as was challenged by two Councillors when presented. Following its tabling and with such strong sentiment held by the community that the Mayoral Minute was misused as a political means to stop any further discussion around the inclusion of a 50m pool in the new aquatic centre a class action Code of Conduct was raised based on the Dept of Local Government's Meeting Practice Notes 2009:
CODE OF CONDUCT against Mayor Innes, Mayor of Eurobodalla Shire Council. We, the undersigned, wish to lodge a formal Code of Conduct complaint against Mayor Innes for putting forward Mayoral Minute MR18/001 REGIONAL AQUATIC, ARTS AND LEISURE CENTRE AT MACKAY PARK, BATEMANS BAY knowing that it introduced, without notice, matters that are routine, not urgent and also having elements that needed a lot of consideration by the councillors before coming to a decision and that such time as to absorb the contents of a 15 page, 6412 word document was not available prior to their being called on to vote. We, the undersigned request that, should an independent arbiter determine the Mayoral Minute to be in breach of Part 2.7.1 of OLG's 'Meetings Practice Note - August 2009' then the Mayoral Minute be withdrawn and the report as it stands be bought to a Council meeting as an agenda item. The determination of the Office of Local Government has been received:
So there you have it good folks of Eurobodalla - more than 30 good solid citizens stupidly mistook the word SHOULD as being a mandatory word where it turns out to be non-mandatory word that has no consequence what so ever.
Above: Part 2.7.1 of OLG's 'Meetings Practice Note - August 2009'
Much like Councillors and Council Should be representative of the community abiding by the intent of the Local Government Act and the OLG and DLG guidelines but apparently that too, it appears, is non-mandatory. Of further interest are the following two paragraphs from a separate letter from the Director, Policy and Sector Development, Office of Local Government; In response to your question about the confidentiality requirements relating to the consideration of matters under councils' codes of conduct, clause 13.1 of the Procedures for the Administration of the Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils in NSW states that "information about code of conduct complaints and the management and investigation of code of conduct complaints is to be treated as confidential and is not to be publicly disclosed". The Procedures are prescribed under the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005.As noted in OLG's previous letter to you, the Procedures are currently being updated and will soon carry sanctions for complainants who inappropriately disclose information about complaints they have made under councils' codes of conduct. What this means good people is that we, the residents and ratepayers of the Eurobodalla will not be allowed to tell a soul about any Code of Conduct we raise against Council for any breach of the Local Government Act we might wish to report and if we are found to be chatting by the authorities around a coffee talking about the Codes of Conduct we may be sanctioned if discovered
Now that is a threat, in writing - and a very clear threat that the Office of Local Government wants any determinations and the details of determinations of raised Codes of Conduct against Council or Councillors kept under the table. As to who this benefits? Well it certainly isn't the ratepayers and residents.