The Beagle Editor, It is with interest that we read of the Codes of Complaint taken out by Eurobodalla residents against their Council and learn of the resultant findings. Your readers might find interest in our latest media release same old, same old …
The Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) is a long-standing critic of the so-called Code of Conduct complaints system that holds sway in NSW Local Government jurisdictions.
As far as the BVSRRA is concerned, the current Code of Conduct system is entirely corrupt, designed as it is around the fundamental premise that government is always right about everything & always acts in the interests of those who are entrusted to defend & extend its power.
In essence, the BVSRRA believes that the system functions as no more than a protection racket for local government officials, often by virtue of the bent procedures which govern its operation or by the fact that strict adherence to those procedures is seen as being of greater importance than recognising & responding to improper behaviour itself.
The BVSRRA believes that this structure serves to protect & indemnify all public officials who loyally place the interests of government ahead of their personal interests & certainly ahead of the community they allegedly exist to serve. And within this ‘closed’ system, it is the servants of government who are all powerful & entirely unaccountable.
It also believes that in the ‘Alice in Wonderland World’ that is local government, those charged with conducting “Independent Reviews” of complaints are “independent” in name only: after all, they are appointed by the same public officials whose actions they are asked to examine & they are paid by the organisations who appoint them. Only an arrogant & unaccountable government would pretend that self-interest wouldn’t flourish in the face of such an arrangement.
As the BVSRRA has highlighted on numerous occasions, it believes that decisions in response to Code of Conduct complaints are more often than not based on nothing more than the opinion of the designated reviewer, while the facts upon which the complaint is based are ignored, making a mockery of any claim that the system operates with integrity & promotes the highest standards of ethical behaviour.
The BVSRRA has provided numerous examples of the blatant failure of the OLG to maintain genuine integrity in this corrupt system, content as it is to acknowledge serious breaches of the Code of Conduct by public officials, while casually & without the burden of any justification, deciding not to pursue even the most blatant of breaches of its meaningless Code of Conduct.
Examples of the cynical abuse of public trust perpetrated by the OLG on the Bega Valley community include its refusal to sanction Cr Allen for his breach of the Code, refusing to take action for an acknowledged breach of the Code by Cr McBain, while this week it chose to ignore the appalling behaviour of the shire's deputy mayor, Cr Seckold, while claiming that the “Independent Reviewer” who had assessed the BVSRRA’s complaint “had complied with the procedures” in dealing with the matter.
The OLG stated that:
“OLG would normally only intervene in a code of conduct matter if it seemed the code had not been correctly applied – either because the prescribed procedures had not been followed or the prescribed standards of conduct had been misinterpreted …”
The fact of the matter is that the BVSRRA had requested the OLG to review the merits of its Code of Conduct complaint on the basis that the “Independent Reviewer” had failed to do so.
The reality is that the OLG chose not to do that & instead satisfied itself only that the Independent Reviewer had followed the correct procedure. It was apparently not open to the OLG to conclude that “the prescribed standards of conduct had been misinterpreted” by the Independent Reviewer simply because the reviewer hadn’t even bothered to address the factual basis of Cr Seckold’s behaviour in the first place.
The BVSRRA believes that by refusing to review the merits of its Code of Conduct complaint, as well as the adequacy of the review undertaken by the so-called “Independent Reviewer”, the OLG has succeeded only in bringing the system into further disrepute, while undermining its own standing & that of the state government for failing to ensure that public officials involved in local government exhibit the very best standards of behaviour in carrying-out their responsibilities to the community.
At the end of the day, the failure of the OLG to ensure that local government respects & observes best practice standards of governance is no surprise to the BVSRRA, given that the OLG fails to embrace such standards itself.
The BVSRRA believes that as long as government actively covets the right to be a law unto itself, then it will never enjoy the support of the community it professes to represent. John Richardson Secretary/Treasurer Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association