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Council's new Model Code sets out to gag


The new 2018 Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils in NSW (the Model Code of Conduct) and Procedures for the Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils in NSW (Procedures) were prescribed under the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005 on 14 December 2018. Councils have six months from the date of prescription (14 December 2018 to 14 June 2019), to adopt a code of conduct and procedures based on the prescribed Model Code of Conduct and Procedures. On February 12th Council endorsed the 2018 Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils in NSW and Procedures for the Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils in NSW for public exhibition for a period of 28 days. There are a number of changes made in the 2018 Model Code of Conduct and Procedures. The most obvious change is that the pecuniary interest provisions previously contained in the LGA and Regulations have now been included in the Model Code of Conduct. Other key changes to the new (yet to be endorsed) Model Code of Conduct include:  new standards relating to discrimination and harassment, bullying, work health and safety, behaviour at meetings, access to information and maintenance of council reports  new rules governing the acceptance of gifts including mandatory reporting  a new ongoing disclosure requirement for councillors and designated persons requiring disclosure of new interests in returns of interests within three months of becoming aware of them  councillors will be required to disclosure in their returns of interests whether they are a property developer or a close associate of a property developer. Changes have also been made to the Procedures to address the following issues:  the role of the general manager in the receipt and initial management of a code of conduct complaint about councillors  the ability of complainants, who are unhappy with decisions of the council, to misuse councils’ codes of conduct by repackaging routine complaints as “code of conduct complaints”  the lack of recourse against members of the public who inappropriately disclose information about complaints they have made under a council’s code of conduct. Of this last one, it is understood that a Council officer danced with glee learning of the proposed change that might bring recourse as the Beagle has openly published the results of Codes of Conduct that would have otherwise remain hidden. As it stands now if a councillor takes out a Code of Conduct against a fellow Councillor or staff member they are bound by the current Model Code not to disclose anything at all to anyone. Examples; 1. Councillor Code of Conduct against the Mayor goes to the GM. Only the Councillor and GM know. Assessed by Investigator with the results only revealed to the Councillor, GM and the Mayor. 2. Councillor Code of Conduct against the GM goes to the Mayor. Only the Councillor and Mayor know. Assessed by Investigator with the results only revealed to the Councillor, Mayor and GM. 3.Councillor Code of Conduct against staff goes to the GM. Only the Councillor and GM know. Assessed by Investigator with the results only revealed to the Councillor, GM.and staff. The current code advises Councillors and Council staff "You must not disclose information about the consideration of a matter under this code except for the purposes of seeking legal advice unless the disclosure is otherwise permitted under this code. However if a member of the public raises a Code of Conduct complaint then the determination is provided to the member of the public who is NOT bound to any confidentiality clause .... YET. But now they want recourse and offer the following


In a nutshell.... If a member of the public raises a Code of Conduct against a councillor or Council staff member and then reveals the determination of that Code of Conduct publicly the general manager or their delegate may, with the consent of the Office, determine that the complainant is to receive no further information about their complaint and any future code of conduct complaint they make or purport to make. This means that if you provide the Code of Conduct determination to the Beagle for example that might reveal a Councillor has not declared a pecuniary interest, has bullied or intimidated a fellow Councillor or staff member, or visa versa, has sexually harassed, has acted inappropriately, has failed to execute their responsibility under the Local Government Act or otherwise then from that day on any further Code of Conduct you might raise will see you barred from being informed of the determination. No wonder the staff member was dancing with glee at learning of this new 'recourse'. But the usual suspects have already found a loophole in this. Every time a new Code of Conduct is raised by a community member it is presented by a new person, as yet to be banned. There are 37,000 residents and at least 500 "usual suspects" so Beagle readers can look forward to seeing many more determinations published in the public interest.

#Opinion #LeiParker

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