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Council reaches an all time new Lowest of the Lows

Imagine if you were to discover a local councillor stepped outside the Model Code of Conduct that sets the minimum standards of conduct for council officials. Maybe they acted in a way that would bring the council into disrepute, maybe what they did was was contrary to law and council policies, maybe it was improper, unethical or an abuse of power such as drunkenly squeezing an ex-council employee on the bum or being involved in the misuse of a councillor position for personal benefit. Maybe the Councillor action constituted harassment or bullying or was unlawfully discriminatory, or maybe it was intimidating or verbally abusive. Maybe it was a council official crossing the line and using Council information for their own benefit or a council executive failing to comply with the Local Government Act in regards to their own salary review. If any of these applied you would be able to raise a Code of Conduct complaint with a higher authority - the Office of Local Government (OLG) - BUT if you did you are not permitted to tell anyone or to divulge what the outcome might be. This is the way the OLG protects the good name and reputation of Local Government. A complaint against Council staff or councillors might be directed at a butt clutching reprobate, or someone who has been kicked out of a hotel for brawling, maybe a social media demon who should know better, especially when it comes to international investors. The complaint might be brought against a councillor who has difficulty determining what can be claimed on credit cards or has an undisclosed conflict of interest because of land that they own. Whatever the reason might be there is an expectation by the community of compliance by Councillors of the Act, Policies and Guidelines. And if they falter - raising a Code of Conduct with a higher authority such as the OLG or Ombudsman seems to be the best thing to do. But is it ? The bottom line is that if you lodge a code of conduct against the Councillors, Mayor or staff with the Office of Local Government you are NOT allowed to reveal that you did so, nor disclose the findings. A bit like the Church. You could have a councillor embezzling the community, sexually harassing staff and generating hate speech on social media and still not be allowed to say that there had been a code of conduct raised against them. The consequence of doing so is swift and isolating, as has been discovered when the General Manager of Eurobodalla Council dobbed in The Beagle for "flouting the rules" and publishing the unspeakable - that an unnamed councillor had stuffed up and was brought to task over a breach of the Model Code.. The Office of Local Government has consented to Eurobodalla Council's request that it provide no further information to the editor of The Beagle about any future code of conduct complaint that they make or purport to make. In giving its consent the OLG apparently bases its consent on the fact that The Beagle editor disclosed that there was a code of conduct complaint made against a councillor (not named) relating to their use of social media, and that the complaint had been reviewed by a conduct reviewer and that that the conduct reviewer had determined that the conduct was proven, and that the complaint should be resolved by “alternative and appropriate informal action” and what that action included. In revealing that there had been a code of conduct raised and divulging information it apparently contravened the rule that code of conduct complaints are to be treated as confidential and are not to be publicly disclosed . The rule says : 12.2 Where a complainant publicly discloses information on one or more occasions about a code of conduct complaint they have made or purported to make, the General Manager or their delegate may, with the consent of the Office of Local Government determine that the complainant is to receive no further information about their complaint and any further code of conduct complaint they make or purport to make. OLG said, in their finding, that the fact that while the Beagle editor did not disclose the councillor's name or detail of the allegation (other than that it related to the use of social media) he did not serve to mitigate the "reckless disregard he has demonstrated to the need to observe confidentiality in relation to the complaint".

The bottom line is that the Beagle and the editor along with all the Friends of The Beagle can lodge Codes of Conduct, under a variety of names, and can therefore publish those findings without fear of reprisal. The determinations and the refusal of the Council to provide the determinations is so irrelevant as to be pathetic as a consequence. Democracy remains, and all we have left is a pathetic council that smugly will sit with the determination of any future Code of Conduct complaint will only be known to them. Alas the torcheculs behind the determination will remain lamenting that they can not stop the flow of Code of Conduct complaints as they continue to breach Acts, polices and guidelines. The determination is irrelevant to the Beagle as it does not prohibit Codes of Conduct being raised, nor actions being brought before the Ombudsman or ICAC. Now, free of threat of isolation and banishment from Council and the OLG 'control'; the Beagle is now able to publish its own "Code of Conduct" concerns and allow and invite the community to be the jury in an open online format for all to see and participate. Who needs the OLG to be the toothless headmaster it has become, stripped of funding, stripped of staff and now apparently also stripped of any intention to represent the community, rather than the Councils that they are paid to protect in good name and reputation. In the future Codes of Conduct will not be lodged with Council and instead lodged with The Beagle to be read, digested and weighed by the community who in fact vote for councillors and employ Council staff.

or is it - we still have 16 months for them to sink even further....

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