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Councillor misconduct and political donations

Councillor misconduct

The Minister for Local Government and the Office of Local Government receive complaints regarding councillor misconduct.

The standards of behaviour that the community expects of persons both in leadership positions and who are working for councils are set out in a comprehensive Model Code of Conduct prescribed by the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005. All councils are required to adopt and apply the Model Code of Conduct.

The council’s own independent conduct review committee or sole reviewer is generally responsible for making enquiries into allegations of breaches of the council’s code of conduct and reporting its findings to council. Councils may vary the minimum requirements in the Model Code of Conduct, provided that the varied provisions are not inconsistent with the Model Code.

The Act defines the type of acts or omissions that amount to misconduct. Such acts or omissions include:

  • a contravention of the Local Government Act 1993 or the Regulations,
  • a failure to comply with applicable requirements of the council’s code of conduct, and
  • acts of disorder that are committed by councillors during a meeting of council or a committee of the council.
  • a failure by a councillor to comply with an order issued by the Director-General

The Chief Executive may, following consideration of a departmental report, take disciplinary action against a councillor for misconduct.

The disciplinary actions available to the Chief Executive are:

  • counsel the councillor,
  • reprimand the councillor,
  • by order, direct the councillor to cease engaging in the misconduct
  • by order, direct the councillor to apologise for the misconduct in the manner specified in the order
  • by order, direct the councillor to undertake training
  • by order, direct the councillor to participate in mediation
  • by order, suspend the councillor from civic office for a period not exceeding three (3) months
  • by order, suspend the councillor’s right to be paid any fee or other remuneration to which the councillor would otherwise be entitled as the holder of the civic office, in respect of a period not exceeding three (3) months (without suspending the councillor from civic office for that period).

Alternatively, a matter may be referred back to the council with recommendations as to how the council might otherwise deal with the matter or no action may be warranted.

The Chief Executive may refer the more serious cases of councillor misconduct to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

In most respects, the Tribunal deals with matters in much the same way as it deals with pecuniary interest matters. The Tribunal has the power to:

  • counsel the councillor, or
  • reprimand the councillor, or
  • suspend a councillor from civic office for a period not exceeding 6 months, or
  • disqualify the councillor from holding civic office for a period not exceeding five (5) years, or
  • suspend a councillor’s right to be paid any fee or remuneration to which the councillor would otherwise be entitled for a period not exceeding 6 months, without actually suspending the councillor from civic office.

Political donations

The Local Government Act 1993 requires that, where a general manager reasonably suspects that a councillor has failed to comply with his or her obligation to disclose and manage a conflict of interest arising from a political donation, the general manager must refer the matter to the Chief Executive.

The Chief Executive may refer the matter to theNSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal in accordance with the misconduct provisions of the Act. Such a referral can be made without the councillor concerned having previously been suspended for misconduct.
 

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