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A possible breach of Council's Model Code of Conduct?

The Eurobodalla is learning the news that a councillor, appointed to the board of the Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has been found to be in breach of the Local Government NSW association’s code of conduct. The LGNSW then resolved to seek the councillor's resignation and to ask him to ‘make appropriate reimbursement. In a statement to ABC South East, the councillor said "This is a confidential matter between me and the LGNSW Board, which I will respect. I am dismayed that this confidential matter has been leaked from LGNSW and I trust it will be investigated. I have nothing further to say on the matter at present". However that same councillor did have something further. to say telling the Bay Post/Moruya Examiner it was related to an administrative error in a travel claim “The issue that arose with LGNSW is a confidential matter and I for one will respect the confidentiality of the decisions of the Board,” he said. However, the deliberate leaking of this confidential information to the media now means that I need to respond in some manner so that I can defend my reputation, which has been now seriously damaged, for what appears to be political reasons. “The issue at the centre of this matter relates to an inadvertent administrative oversight on my behalf which I have fully rectified. “This related to travel claims during a period where I had to document well over 150 different items.

“Unfortunately, as I was advised, in two of these LGNSW claims I made an error, which at the time of the claims was not picked up by either me or the body to which the claims were sent. I accepted accountability for my error, and offered my voluntary resignation for this, and other personal reasons. “I am seeking further advice regarding the deliberate leaking of this matter which is intended to cause me harm. I am also seeking further legal advice in regard to the processes that have been undertaken by the Board in this matter. I am therefore unable to provide any further information.” NOTE THAT THE COUNCILLOR'S NAME HAS NOT BEEN MENTIONED WHY NOT? We need to determine neutrally if a Eurobodalla councillor has breached his own Council's Model Code of Conduct. Personalities can not come into play as the letter of the law needs to be applied. So his name is irrelevant and the findings can only be based on facts. The fact is simple: a councillor, in his capacity as a councillor and representative of his Council, was found to be in breach of the Local Government NSW association’s code of conduct and asked to resign. The determination was made by an independent investigator bought in to investigate an "inadvertent administrative oversight " Bottom line: The councillor was found to be in breach of the Local Government NSW association’s code of conduct The councillor has advised that "The issue that arose with LGNSW is a confidential matter " But is it?

The Model Code of Conduct above sets the minimum requirements of conduct for council officials in carrying out their functions. The Model Code of Conduct is prescribed by regulation. The Model Code of Conduct has been developed to assist council officials to: • understand the standards of conduct that are expected of them • enable them to fulfil their statutory duty to act honestly and exercise a reasonable degree of care and diligence (section 439) • act in a way that enhances public confidence in the integrity of local government 3.1 is quite clear: You must not conduct yourself in carrying out your functions in a manner that is likely to bring the council or holders of civic office into disrepute Specifically, you must not act in a way that: a) contravenes the Act, associated regulations, council’s relevant administrative requirements and policies b) is detrimental to the pursuit of the charter of a council c) is improper or unethical 3.2 is equally clear You must act lawfully, honestly and exercise a reasonable degree of care and diligence in carrying out your functions under the Act or any other Act.(section 439) 439 CONDUCT OF COUNCILLORS, STAFF, DELEGATES AND ADMINISTRATORS (1) Every councillor, member of staff of a council and delegate of a council must act honestly and exercise a reasonable degree of care and diligence in carrying out his or her functions under this or any other Act.

The Model Code of Conduct (which our council has adopted as its own code) has been open to several interpretations as far as councillor's conduct is concerned. In recent weeks the OLG found that there was NO breach by the Eurobodalla Mayor regarding her non-urgent Mayoral Minute as the word SHOULD did not mean MUST and was therefore mandatory. This time we see the word MUST is applied to the reasons behind what will drive multiple Codes of Conduct being raised against the councillor in question so that an open and transparent investigation and determination can be made and published with the findings. The critical point is that it doesn't matter where a councillor is when they behave badly in order to qualify as breaching the code. It is a sufficient condition that they are acting in their role as a councillor and not in a private capacity when they do what they do. And the Model Code of Conduct doesn't stop at Council chambers. If a councillor or staff member becomes embroiled in a punch up for example with a member of the public or conducts themselves in an improper or unethical manner at a social function which is a part of council activities, they too have breached the code. Having been found to have breached Local Government NSW association’s code of conduct we have to ask "Does that mean the councillor now has to explain why he hasn't also breached the Council's own Model Code"? At section 3.2 of the code (above) we see that a councillor is obliged to conduct him/herself lawfully and with honesty, in carrying out the functions of his/her office, under the LGA or any other Act. So, the question is: Is the appointment to the LGNSW Board to represent Rural and Regional Councils and Eurobodalla Shire to be regarded as part of the functions of a councillor's office with the councillor, whilst engaged in that appointment deemed to be carrying out the functions of a councillor and representing Eurobodalla Shire? It is now widely considered that whilst the councillor was involved with the LGNSW he was exercising his functions as a councillor under the Local Government Act and representing the Eurobodalla Shire Council. It will be more than interesting to read the independent investigators view and that of the Office of Local Government when they become available. With that it mind it is now widely considered that the councillor has breached at least some of the the requirements set out at 3.1 of the The Model Code of Conduct and, as such, Codes of Conducts have been raised against that councillor seeking an independent determination.

#Opinion #LeiParker

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