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Draft Code of Conduct and Procedures
Councils across NSW have six months to comply with section 440(3) of the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW) (Act) by adopting the provisions of the Office of Local Government’s (OLG) Model Code of Conduct (Model Code) and Code of Conduct Procedures (Procedures) on or before 14 June 2019. Council’s adopted Code of Conduct (Code) must incorporate the provisions of the Model Code.
In addition, supplementary provisions which may be more onerous than those prescribed in the Model Code can be included provided they are not inconsistent with the Model Code.
The Model Code introduces strict new requirements including:
- Banning council officials from accepting gifts valued at more than $50.
- Mandatory reporting of all gifts and offers regardless of value in the council gift register.
- Councillors with a pecuniary interest cannot access council information about the matter.
- Suspensions for pecuniary interest breaches will count towards the “three strikes and you’re out” scheme introduced in 2015 where Councillors face automatic disqualification when they are suspended three times for misconduct.
- Councillors and designated persons must declare new interests within 3 months of becoming aware of it to the General Manager on the Written Return of Interests Form.
- Councillors and designated persons must declare on Written Return of Interests Forms if they are a property developer.
- New standards relating to discrimination and harassment, bullying, work health and safety, behaviour at meetings, use of social media, access to information and maintenance of council records.
- News standards relating to the use of social media.
In particular, the Model Code contains certain provisions which would:
- clarify the operation of Council’s existing Code, including by specifically referencing relevant sections of the Act and other pertinent legislation; and
- improve the ethical standards set out in the existing Code by expressly addressing a range of behaviours, including those occurring on social media.
A mandatory review of Council’s existing Code was undertaken and the proposed new Code and proposed Procedures reflect the OLG’s Model Code. The proposed Code includes two supplementary provisions, which were initially included in the consultation draft Model Code however were later removed from the final Model Code. These additional provisions exceed the minimum prescribed standards and are in line with community expectations as they aim to ensure transparency and enhance ethical standards.
The two supplementary provisions:
- require Council Officials to declare all gifts and offers of gifts regardless of value in Council’s gift register (clause 6.6); and
- include more stringent provisions around the use of social media (clause 8.21).
All mandatory clauses from the Model Code are highlighted in yellow in the proposed draft Code and the two supplementary clauses are highlighted in green.
On 20 February 2019, Council resolved to exhibit the Draft Code of Conduct and Procedures.
The Draft Code and Procedures is on exhibition from 21 February until 20 March 2019. The policy is also available for viewing at Cessnock and Kurri Kurri libraries.
Written submissions must be addressed to: The General Manager Re: Code of Conduct and Procedures. Submissions must be received by 5pm on 20 March 2019 via post or email.
Submissions are not kept confidential. Council will release submissions if a request is made in accordance with the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (NSW) and Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW).
When a submission is released, Council will withhold contact numbers, email addresses and signatures. Should you wish for all personal details or any information that may identify you to be withheld from the public, please make this clear in your submission.
Enquiries should be directed to Council’s Customer Service on 02 4993 4100.