In an interview piece with ACM the General Manager of Eurobodalla Council said: "it's important for people to consider where they get their information from and how reliable the source is.
"I do get concerned about where people find information. There's certainly blogs I won't ever read, even though they could be having a real go at me," she says.
"I don't particularly care what they say about me, because I don't read them."
Instead, Dr Dale reads good old fashioned newspapers, and says its her way to relax after a day at work.
"I'm a bit of a newspaper addict and I read them every day," she says.
"The reason I like newspapers is because it broadens your view. You might be dealing with one piece of an issue, and then you read about other things that are happening and it gives you new perspectives." In the same article to be published in a newspaper next Wednesday (October 13th, 2021) the General Manager said: It is one of my primary responsibilities to ensure the councillors have all the information they can to enable them to make decisions, because that is fundamentally what governments do," This week saw NSW Labor urging the NSW Government to conduct an urgent review of the model code of conduct for councils following a large spike in the number of complaints and the cost to deal with them in the past two years. Figures reported to Office of Local Government show 395 code of conduct complaints were received in 2019-20 across the NSW Councils, with the cost of dealing with them amounting to $1,593 416. However, the number of finalised complaints where a breach was found came to just 48. In the case of Eurobodalla there were only four reported in that period with zero outcome of any consequence. Yet over the last five years Eurobodalla has received innumerable Code of Conduct complaints against Councillors, The General Manager and Senior Executives and the number has certainly increased since they have come under scrutiny via an informed community able to identify breeches in the Local Government Act, Council Policies and Council Guidelines. The raising of a Code of Conduct complaint is as follows: Code of Conduct complaint lodged clearly outlining details of the complaint Council determines if the complaint "has legs" and is not vexatious Council passes it to an Independent Assessor (an pay for the review) The Assessor provides a finding The finding is communicated to the complainant and to the complained about. If there is a consequence it is to be actioned. There is no public evidence of consequences being actioned Note that all of the above is done under a veil of secrecy that only allows the complainant, the complained about, the Council Complaints Officer and the Assessor to know of the details and outcome. Any leak of the details is in itself a breech with consequences. The process ensures the general public are to never learn of the details of a breech that could range from manipulation for personal gain, failure to declare an pecuniary interest, missuse of Council information, breeches of ratepayer privacy for personal gain and sexual misconduct. Everything is to remain secret and the guidelines are written by the Office of Local Government to protect the good name of Local Government. Take for example a Code of Conduct Complaint against the General Manager of Eurobodalla Council who was believed to be in breach of the Local Government Act and other relevant Guidelines for failing to provide material correspondence from the Office of Local Government to Eurobodalla Council prior to a council meeting pertinent to the contents of the letter. The LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1993 - SECT 335 is very clear on the functions of the General Manager.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1993 - SECT 335
Functions of general manager 335 FUNCTIONS OF GENERAL MANAGER
(f) to ensure that the mayor and other councillors are given timely information and advice and the administrative and professional support necessary to effectively discharge their functions
Of concern was the admission (confirmed in writing) that the General Manager did NOT provide material correspondence from the Office of Local Government (OLG). Nor did she make it available to the Council's own Audit and Risk Committee.
The OLG letter raised their concerns regarding the future capacities of the Eurobodalla Council to meet possible financial shortfalls the centre might offer, raising the question around demand and making note of the potential of Covid to impact Council’s financial position.
This Code of Conduct complaint, against the General Manager, noted her admission that, material correspondence, in the opinion of the complainant, received on July 13th, 2020, was NOT given to councillors in the leadup to their crucial vote on committing $19 million to the Mackay Park project. It was believed, by withholding the OLG letter, as it appears, the councillors were denied the opportunity to consider the concerns the OLG raised over the long term and cumulative effects of councillor actions on future generations. Had it not been for a GIPA request to access the letter the Councillors would never have learnt of it, and only did so when it was published in The Beagle. It will be of no surprise to Beagle readers to learn that the Independent reviewer handling this Code of Conduct complaint considered that the General Manager had done no wrong in not passing on the letter to councillors written on July 13th 2020 by the Office of Local Government that voiced their concerns to Councillors. The Independent reviewer determined that: "If considered in isolation, we can see how the selection of element of the OLG letter, as compared to the provision of the whole letter, could be perceived as providing incomplete information to Councillors. However, when viewed in the context of the publicly available information over the life of the project and noting the previous reports, briefings and information provided to Councillors and that many of these were detailed in the Agenda for the Ordinary council Meeting of 28 July 2020 to vote on the motion, the selection of information provided to Councillors is not considered to be an omission material to informed decision making. "We assess that it is reasonable for reports and briefings provided to Councillors to be focussed on the decision being made, rather then re-providing voluminous amounts of information that Council has previously considered during the life of this project. "We also consider it to be a prudent and professional approach for Council’s staff to select the salient information and provide summaries, rather than to simply pass on every piece of correspondence that Council receives." Pursuant to Clause 6.13 of the Procedures, being satisfied that much of the information that is alleged to have been omitted from the information provided prior to Council voting on motion PSR20/015 for the approval of the construction tender is publicly available through Council’s website.
So the Independent reviewer is of the opinion that ".. it to be a prudent and professional approach for Council’s staff to select the salient information and provide summaries, rather than to simply pass on every piece of correspondence that Council receives." Yet here we have the General Manager telling the Bay Post on October 8th 2021:
"It is one of my primary responsibilities to ensure the councillors have all the information they can to enable them to make decisions, because that is fundamentally what governments do,"
Eurobodalla Council General Manager, Catherine Dale Further reading: Beagle Hall of Fame: Welcome to Donald Macdonald