There has been quite a bit of discussion around the Code of Conduct as a result of the 25 July Coffs Harbour Council meeting.
The Coffs Coast Outlook presents below without any further comment two sections that may be relevant to discussions around this. The first is from the Code of Conduct for NSW Local Councils 2018 and the second is from the ICAC Act 1988.
The 2018 Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils in NSW.
How are code of conduct complaints about councillors to be dealt with?
5.20 The general manager must refer the following code of conduct complaints about councillors to the Office:
a) complaints alleging a breach of the pecuniary interest provisions contained in Part 4 of the code of conduct
b) complaints alleging a failure to comply with a requirement under the code of conduct to disclose and appropriately manage conflicts of interest arising from political donations (see section 328B of the LGA)
c) complaints alleging a breach of the provisions relating to the maintenance of the integrity of the code of conduct contained in Part 9 of the code of conduct
d) complaints that are the subject of a special complaints management arrangement with the Office under clause 5.49.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 (“the ICAC Act”)
Section 11 online reporting
The duty to report suspected corrupt conduct:
Under Section 11 of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 (“the ICAC Act”), a principal officer of a NSW public authority has a duty to report to the ICAC any matter where there is a reasonable suspicion that corrupt conduct has occurred or may occur.
A NSW Government minister is required to report suspected corrupt conduct to either the ICAC or to the head of an agency for which he or she is responsible.
A principal officer is the person who heads the public authority, its most senior officer or the person who usually presides at meetings. This is most commonly the chief executive officer or secretary of a state authority, or the general manager of a local council.
Reasonable grounds for suspicion mean there is a real possibility that corrupt conduct is, or may be, involved. No proof is required. If, as a principal officer, you are uncertain about whether or not to report a matter under section 11, please contact the ICAC’s Manager Assessments on 02 8281 5786. In general, the ICAC encourages principal officers to err on the side of caution and report the matter.
The ICAC Act contains no provision permitting delay in reporting. To delay can result in the loss of investigative opportunities for the ICAC. The duty to report overrides any duty of confidentiality. As it is a statutory duty, a principal officer is protected in making such a report from any civil or criminal liability.