Public Access Forum – June 14th 2022
Presentation by Lei Parker
GMR22/065 Policy Review - Code of Conduct.
The General Manager recommends, in her report, that the Code of Conduct Policy be adopted with no changes
The second part of her recommendation is that the Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils in NSW 2020 and Procedures for the Administration of the Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils in NSW 2020 be adopted.
The report states that, under section 12.1 of the Procedures for the Administration of the Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils in NSW 2020 it: “Information about code of conduct complaints and the management and investigation of the code of conduct complaint is to be treated as confidential and is not to be publicly disclosed except as may be otherwise specifically required or permitted under these procedures”
This means that if a Code of Conduct complaint is raised by a member of the public YOU, councillors of the Eurobodalla, are not allowed to know, nor are you to be advised of the determination unless it is a breach of the law.
It didn’t used to be like this. The OLG decided to change the rules during the last term of Council. Up until then the details of a Code of Conduct and the outcome could be published.
And The Beagle did just that revealing raised Codes of Conduct complaints of breaches of Council’s own policies and the Local Government Act in regards to preparation and minuting of agendas.
But the OLG didn’t like that such detail could be out in the public, sullying the good name of local government, so they added the following to the latest Procedures for the Administration of the Model Code of Conduct:
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, 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.
After Council adopted this there were further codes of conduct complaints lodged.
Much to Council’s chagrin the outcomes of those Code of Conduct complaints were published. Detailing the complaint, the independent reviewer’s determination and, if any, the consequence.
Unless you were the councillor being complained of you would have NO idea of what complaints were under investigation or the nature of those complaints. They were secret …. until The Beagle came along.
The first time I revealed details, after the new rules, Council reacted with glee and advised, incorrectly, that I, and any group or association I was associated with, would not be able to lodge any future Code of Conduct complaints.
When this determination was revealed to the OLG Council quickly followed up with a letter saying they had misunderstood the rules.
The bottom line, by what you are adopting, and have no option but to adopt, is that if you lodge a code of conduct against one of your fellow Councillors, Mayor or staff with the Office of Local Government you are NOT allowed to reveal that you did so, nor disclose the findings to anyone.
The same applies to the community.
In essence you could have a Council employee failing in delivering under the Local Government Act or abusing the use of ratepayer information for personal use. There have been innumerable Codes of Conduct complaints but no-one knows the context or the determination.
Councillors, you have no option but to adopt the procedure that is directed by the OLG.
But fortunately The Beagle has a good work around. Now, when a Code of Conduct complaint is lodged by a member of the community that same complaint is lodged by several people. As a matter of course each is then advised of the final determination and consequence handed down, if any.
Once the complaint is finalised it is published via the “gifting” to the public by one of the complainants. Should they be discovered each and all of the complainants are “prepared to fall on their sword” and be forever banished.
Councillors, there are no limits to how many community members are happy to reveal and then be banished, making a total mockery of 12.1
As you sit there you might like to wonder who has a current Code of Conduct being penned against them, or at worse, who among you are now being threatened by Codes of Conduct complaints.
Rest assured, by the example set over the past five years, that the consequences are negligible.
Above: "Repercussions and consequences..... really? "