Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Councillor's code of conduct chargeback call

Cr Martyn Evans speaking during last week's council meeting.
COSTS associated with investigations into a complaint against him should be charged back to the state's Code of Conduct panel, Councillor Martyn Evans told last week's Derwent Valley Council meeting.

The meeting heard that allegations made against Cr Evans had been dismissed after a lengthy investigation, but the former mayor said the complaints should have been dismissed at the outset. He said the cost of the investigation, which he estimated at up to $7000, should be charged back to the chairperson of the Code of Conduct Panel.

Ms Rebbecca Thorpe had alleged that Cr Evans had breached several provisions of the code of conduct in relation to decision making, conflict of interest, use of information, gifts and benefits, relationships with the community, and representation. Cr Evans described the investigation process as “Rafferty’s rules” and said he had had taken up the “farcical nature” with the director of local government.

“I’m quite disappointed in the panel, I’m happy that all three charges have been dismissed, but I would be seeking this council to send the bill to the chair of the Code of Conduct Panel,” Cr Evans said.

In its report, to Code of Conduct Panel said it had dismissed the complaints lodged by Ms Thorpe against Cr Evans, but: "it considers that a more pro-active and conciliatory approach by him at the outset might have resulted in a more positive outcome for Ms Thorpe."

The panel also found that the Derwent Valley Council did not appear to have effective and efficient processes in place for dealing with incoming correspondence and had failed to provide timely feedback to Ms Thorpe in relation to her complaints.

"From the evidence provided to the hearing it appears that no response was made to Ms Thorpe’s letter of 24 January 2018, thus necessitating a further complaint dated 2 April 2018. A full response to the 2 April 2018 complaint was not provided until 7 May 2018, over one month later."

The panel also commented on its own inability to investigate and report on Ms Thorpe's complaint in the timeframe specified by the Local Government Act, due to the amount of information provided by Ms Thorpe, the need for two hearings, and members of the panel taking annual leave. 

Appeals against the outcome of Code of Conduct complaints are now made to the Magistrates Court (Administrative Appeals Division).

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