The Beagle Editor, It is of interest to read the recent response from the OLG in regards to the Mayoral Minute saying that the key word was Should instead of Must and that the Practice Notes for meeting practices around Mayoral minutes in what was permissible were guidelines and therefore non-mandatory. Your readers might be interested in our recent examples of OLG determinations. on foul odours...
Last month the BVSRRA recounted some of its experience in pursuing complaints under Bega Valley Shire Council’s (BVSC) Code of Conduct, in particular its recent complaint against Deputy Mayor, Cr Liz Seckold, which the BVSRRA alleges was rejected by the so-called “Independent Reviewer” on the basis of the reviewer’s unsubstantiated opinion, rather than the obvious facts of the matter.
Following the rejection of its complaint, the BVSRRA wrote to the Office of Local Government (OLG) & requested it to conduct an independent assessment of the complaint & also to review the suitability of the Reviewer to remain on BVSC’s panel of reviewer’s.
The BVSRRA can now confirm that it was disappointed but not surprised to learn that the OLG has ignored its request to review the merits of its complaint & the suitability of the reviewer to remain on BVSC’s reviewer’s panel & has confirmed only that the reviewer “complied with the procedures in dealing with the matter”.
In the meantime, as a result of its complete loss of faith in BVSC’s capacity to administer its Code of Conduct Complaint System with any level of integrity, the BVSRRA had determined to pursue a separate complaint relating to Cr Fitzpatrick directly with the OLG under the provisions of the NSW Local Government Act, alleging a breach of the act by Cr Fitzpatrick in his failing to declare a pecuniary conflict of interest in respect of BVSC’s deliberations & decisions regarding the proposal to fluoridate the shire’s drinking water supplies.
The BVSRRA’s decision to pursue this complaint was based partly on its belief that a fair & reasonable person could believe that Cr Fitzpatrick had a conflict of interest by virtue of his membership of the board of the NSW Southern Local Health District (NSWSLHD), a remunerated appointment made by the NSW Minister for Health, who was also the state government’s proponent for the fluoridation of the shire’s water supplies, & partly by the fact that Cr Fitzpatrick himself had declared a non-pecuniary conflict of interest in respect of the same matter.
The OLG has since advised that it has rejected the complaint against Cr Fitzpatrick on the basis that "the subject matter does not warrant investigation".
While the OLG confirmed that it could not find “any evidence that indicates Cr Fitzpatrick had a pecuniary interest in Council’s consideration of drinking water fluoridation”, it simply ignored the possibility that there was a public perception that there was such a conflict, in particular as Cr Fitzpatrick had himself declared a non-pecuniary conflict of interest in respect of the matter.
Aside from the latest examples detailed above, there have been numerous other instances where the OLG has failed to enforce the provisions of its own Code of Conduct, even to the point of ignoring the lawful resolutions of councils.
The full text of this Media Release is available here … http://www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association---Media-Release---on-foul-odours---14.05.2018.pdf
Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association