Code of conduct ‘stress’

Further guidance on code of conduct matters may soon be available to councillors throughout NSW following a review by the Office of Local Government (OLG).

In the review and discussion in the Bega Valley Shire Council general meeting on Wednesday, November 29 executive manager organisational development Nina Churchward explained the OLG was proposing to add “a lot more clauses around bullying and harassment which will assist in defining what is bullying and will provide greater clarification”.

It prompted councillor Robyn Bain to ask whether the changes would improve matters.

“As I am such a receiver of the code of conduct, the complications we have in last 12 months, have they been addressed?” Cr Robyn Bain asked.

“There have been some changes. Is it perfect? No,” Ms Churchward replied adding that council had made 14 reccomendations.

Cr Robyn Bain said the code of conduct scared people away from being councillors and caused “extraordinary stress and grief to the councillor and their family”.

Councillor Russell Fitzpatrick lightened the mood when he commented: “It depends where the bar is - if we compare ourselves to Auburn we’re a long way ahead. Maybe we’re behind some other councils.”

Council had originally agreed to note the report.

However following a late discussion on the matter council agreed to endorse the Canberra Region Joint Organisation of Councils’ submission.

This submission of the draft consultation documents for the Reviewed Model Code of Conduct and Procedures for the Administration of the Model Code of Conduct for Councils in NSW, will be presented to the OLG for their consideration.

Crs Bain, Nadin, Griff, McBain, Seckold, Tapscott and Dodds all voted for the motion with Crs Fitzpatrick and Allen voting against.

The discussion followed a call the previous week, by mayor Kristy McBain, for all councillors to be more mature in how they approach issues during debate.