The Councillor, the Strata body and strange code of conduct ‘comings and goings’ – Part 2

OPINION/COMMENT

Late last week we published Part 1 of a story that looked at two code of conduct cases relating to one current Councillor running for re-election that we believed on the copious documentation we had raised a number of serious concerns and questions.

By The Editor

We believe the questions raised in Part 1 now need to be looked at.

Q1: How do the findings in the two code of conduct cases looked at compares to a other actions taken against Councillors recently?

A: The Councillor, who posed questions to the CHCC Planning Department

In mid-to late 2019 a Councillor, opposed to the proposed CCS in Gordon Street, approached members of the CHCC Planning Department to inquire about issues surrounding a contentious DA that has been the subject of much coverage here at CCO.

After the discussion, which we understand was brief, the same member of the Department reported the interaction to management above them.  We understand that reports of the discussion escalated up through CHCC management.

It would appear, as a result, encouragement was given to the taking of a Code of Conduct against the Councillor.

We understand that Train Reaction were again the investigator/report handler of the Code of Conduct.  The Councillor argued in their defence that they were merely inquiring about the issues CHCC saw with the DA on behalf of a resident and ratepayer. Although the Councillor admitted that perhaps speaking to a Senior Manager first may have been a better way to have approached the issue.

We are informed that the recommendation from Train Reaction was that the Councillor should be reported to ICAC with a recommendation ICAC then investigate the Councillor in question.

In the end this did not happen because using clauses under the Code of Conduct Councillors reviewed the Code of Conduct report and ruled that the proposed sanctions were too severe in the circumstances and that the Councillor should merely apologise to affected staff.

Interestingly, CCO has been unable so far to find evidence of any other code of conduct findings being referred to Councillors, not least those looked at in Part 1 of this story.

The clauses are listed as 7.46-7.61 in the OLG model code of conduct.

The Councillor in question?

B:  The Four Councillors who ‘walked out’

This does not just relate to a code of conduct.  Rather it also more importantly pertains to a formal complaint to the Office of Local Government by senior CHCC Management and a small number of Councillors. 

The complaint was that the four Councillors (pictured in the lead photo), also all opposed to the CCS in Gordon Street, had caused harm to Council in numerous ways by doing so. The complaint resulted in an OLG ruling that the four Councillors in question have two months Council fees deducted.

CCO understands that this ruling may be the subject of appeal and that two other Councillors may be additionally implicated as a result.

CCO believes when comparing the two cases from Part 1 to those highlighted above that many lay people would conclude different outcomes and strategies may be at play against those who have opposed the CCS/YAM since mid-2019.

Q2: Has justice been seen to be done and is the code of conduct process transparent as practiced?

We believe when looking at the evidence presented many would conclude that the answer to this question would be ‘No’. 

In fact we are of the view that it reinforces the point we made in an earlier editorial that the process has become ‘weaponised’.  Not just at the CHCC and not just by any one side either. 

This is surely not what the drafters of the Model Code of Conduct intended?

Q3: Can code of conduct determinations be appealed and if so how?

We have been told several parties to Codes of conduct have asked this and been told an appeal can only be done on the basis the process was wrong and that such an appeal must be made to the Office of Local Government.

Perhaps the matter pertaining to Code of Conduct review decisions being presented to full council mentioned above might be an avenue in this regard?

Q4: How is it an investigator gets to investigate and decide on a case which includes centrally something they themselves authored earlier? Do ‘conflict of interest’ arguments arise?

CCO suspects strongly again that the average resident or ratepayer would think the answer to the above two questions would be; (i) “that doesn’t sound appropriate in our opinion” and (ii) “yes, quite possibly”. In that order.

Can you see now why CCO has had concerns about an increasing lack of transparency at the Coffs Harbour City Council have become ever more of concern over recent years?

2 thoughts on “The Councillor, the Strata body and strange code of conduct ‘comings and goings’ – Part 2

  1. ‘Weaponised’. the new modern term of how to use the law for one’s own outcome just like the American Democrat’s used the FBI as a weapon against the Mums and Dads of students.

  2. Hopefully all candidates by now will have had a good look at these two revelatory journalism stories by CCO.

    And ask themselves: Is this what I want to have to face when I get elected?

    If my view differs from that of the general manager and executive?

    This sort of treatment? As each stands now, fresh and ready to represent their constituents? To aim to do well, to achieve and respect their own ideals?

    An internal system at Coffs Harbour City Council bent and skewed by small minds and broken consciences?

    Sickening, isn’t it. We’ve had five years of public onslaught from CHCC management forcibly trying to imprint an image in our minds of how beneficent and high achieving they are. Then we get a peek inside, behind closed doors, where the whispering and conniving takes over.

    Coffs Harbour City Council. It used to stand for something. This is a glimpse of the inners that tell us a little of where and how it’s become a degenerate embodiment of greed, a rush and rapacious opportunistic grab at artificial prestige, a free public spend to whack a slamdunk on wafer CVS, as the place goes to Waste.

    Absolutely pathetic.

    I hope Steve McGrath, sitting at a desk, still not coming out to face the music, never did, for five years (other than to show off the shiny bits), to a community his decisions ravaged, a desk that is owned by us, provided by us for use, for use better than this, in an office owned by us, provided by us for use better than this, is ‘head between his knees’ in shame.

    These two stories are ugly. A look behind those closed doors, beyond that onslaught, and we see ugly.

    Lately we’ve had revelations from a candidate with a glimpse also into the real state of the airport deal. Unbelievable. And the cost of the new ‘offices’ idea — waste upon waste to achieve that artificial, fabricated prestige and biffied up CV, millions upon millions of public money, wasted on that. The Waste issue itself, untouched, as that rapacious rush to snatch at prestige, more millions lost to that. We’re at tens and tens and tens of millions, with these issues alone. We could go on and on.

    It has to stop.

    I’ve tried to take a sympathetic view for how Steve McGrath has so consummately failed, as I look upon his appointment; that he came here not wanting the top job and got it unexpectedly, was out of his depth, came from a tiny population ill-equipped to do what’s needed, was handed a systemic gift, if you could call it that, in a mayor of a mind much the same.

    But these two journalistic revelations have changed my mind. If that amount of public money, tens and tens of millions, hundreds of millions when forecast to 99 years, can be so easily disregarded, so nonchalantly pissed up and lost to the ether, in act and idea, unchecked, couldn’t care less — then so too could have procedure and the law been so treated.

    The entire CCS-idea is screaming out for a thorough investigation. And as those words are written, the minds are divided — heavily one way, against it, I’m convinced, but divided — yet that division is also a poisonous venom injected into a good community beforehand, and remains regardless, and it’s a response that I think isn’t warranted.

    Because an investigation into the CCS-idea is more than just that. It’s an investigation into how local government has devolved, and now deems itself to so operate.

    It’s a stake in the ground. It’s a time when this community says: “Enough!”

    An investigation is a statement of intent to reclaim the rightful balance and integrity in the Coffs Harbour local government area. That’s not a single issue statement.

    Those desks and those offices we own, and we provide for use, are intended for better than what’s been made of them.

    These two journalistic pieces have — solidly — put the local system on notice.

    To every candidate running, I wish you the best. Once elected, you deserve much better than this.

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