A call went out on the Coonabarabran Facebook page last week for locals to submit questions to candidates in the upcoming Warrumbungle Shire Council (WSC) elections. Coonabarabran News received an email from outgoing Councillor Victor Schmidt who has questions for the current Councillors and candidates  (which will be put to them separately)  as well as bringing up serious issues around two current Councillors.

The WSC has a Code of Conduct by which every Councillor must abide. This current council term is the first to have anyone reported under that code. As a matter of process, all investigations into breaches of the code are kept confidential, (Councillors have been warned about breaching that confidentiality when they have tried to discuss investigations in open forums). Serious matters can be referred to the Office of Local Government (OLG), who can investigate and take action or refer the issue back to the Council to take action, with recommendations.

At least two extremely serious matters have gone through this process during this term of the WSC.  As the results were not made any more public than being noted in council business minutes, Mr Schmidt questioned whether this kind of lack of transparency in council is acceptable and should these kind of matters and their outcomes be made public for ratepayer consideration. Cr Schmidt also questioned whether potential and current Councillors think the behaviour cited below is acceptable.

Councillor Dennis Todd, Cr Schmidt tells us, was reported under the Local Government Code of Conduct for “Using confidential information to gain a financial advantage”.

The OLG investigated and referred the matter back to the Warrumbungle Shire Council to determine what action the  WSC would take against Cr Todd. While details are unclear in the council meeting minutes, it appears that members were undecided on how to proceed with the OLG’s report. The motion to engage more with the OLG on the matter expired without a vote. Finally the sitting council decided that …
i. that Cr Todd be chastised for misuse of information on the I-pad;
ii. that no further action be taken in regard to Cr Todd; and
iii. that Council reinforce the provisions in dealing with confidential information. 
[Council Minutes can be downloaded as a PDF]

Integrity should be an essential trait of a Warrumbungle Shire Councillor and ratepayers should ask themselves whether being “chastised” for using confidential information for personal gain is suitable punishment for something that in most private corporations would lead to dismissal .

The second serious breach of the code of conduct relates to the behaviour of Cr Fred Clancy towards the General Manager, staff members and members of the public. The full wording of the allegations and the findings are below, but the short version is that Cr Clancy was found to have bullied people, assumed roles he did not hold, and used his position to attempt to influence the proper processes of council.

The Council found the following against Cr Clancy and noted in Council minutes [PDF DOWNLOAD]

Item 3C Code of Conduct Investigation Report
61/1516 RESOLVED:
a) That Councillor Clancy issue a written apology to the Councils Town Planning staff
within 14 days of Council adopting this recommendation.
b) That Councillor Clancy be directed by Council not to attend meetings between Council
staff and applicants in the future.
c) That Councillor Clancy be required to undertake a training course provided by the
Office of Local Government within six (6) months from the date of adoption of this
recommendation.
d) The findings in relation to each allegation are as follows;
1. Allegation 1. Councillor Clancy has breached Clause 3.1, a), d), e), Clause 3.7,
Clause 3.8 & Clause 6.7, e) and g) of Council Code of Conduct because of the
evidence that was provided and Councillor Clancy’s acknowledgement of the
facts.
2. Allegation 2. Councillor Clancy has breached Clause 3.1, a), d), e), Clause 3.3,
Clause 3.7, Clause 6.2 a) and b), Clause 6.7, e) and g) of Councils Code of
Conduct because of the evidence which was provided and Councillor Clancy’s
acknowledgement he should not have been present during discussions
between Council staff and applicants who are having dealings with Council.
3. Allegation 3. Councillor Clancy has breached Clauses 3.1, a), b), c), d) and e),
Clause 3.3, Clause 6.7 e) and f) of the Code of Conduct for intimidation of the
General Manager regarding the Code of Conduct matter before Council.
Councillor Clancy has breached Clauses 7.9 and 7.10 a), b), and c) of the Code
of Conduct which relates to the use and security of confidential information.
4. Allegation 4. Councillor Clancy has breached Clause 3.1, a), b), c), d), Clause
3.2 and Clause 3.3 of Council’s Code of Conduct and Section 335 of the Local
Government Act because of his involvement in contacting persons in relation to
Council’s internal operations which by Law, is to be undertaken by the General
Manager in accordance with the Local Government Act.

The relevant parts of the Code deemed to be broken by Cr Clancy are
General conduct
General conduct
3.1 You must not conduct yourself in carrying out your functions in a manner that is likely
to bring the council or holders of civic office into disrepute. Specifically, you must
not act in a way that:
a) contravenes the Act, associated regulations, council’s relevant
administrative requirements and policies
b) is detrimental to the pursuit of the charter of a council c) is
improper or unethical
d) is an abuse of power or otherwise amounts to misconduct
e) causes, comprises or involves intimidation, harassment or verbal abuse
3.2 You must act lawfully, honestly and exercise a reasonable degree of care and
diligence in carrying out your functions under the Act or any other Act. (section
439)
3.3 You must treat others with respect at all times.
Development decisions
3.7 You must ensure that development decisions are properly made and that parties
involved in the development process are dealt with fairly. You must avoid any
occasion for suspicion of improper conduct in the development assessment process.
3.8 In determining development applications, you must ensure that no action,
statement or communication between yourself and applicants or objectors conveys any suggestion of willingness to provide improper concessions or preferential
treatment.Use and security of confidential information
7.9 You must maintain the integrity and security of confidential documents or
information in your possession, or for which you are responsible.
7.10 In addition to your general obligations relating to the use of council information, you
must:
a) protect confidential information
b) only release confidential information if you have authority to do so
c) only use confidential information for the purpose it is intended to be used
d) not use confidential information gained through your official position for the
purpose of securing a private benefit for yourself or for any other person
e) not use confidential information with the intention to cause harm or detriment to
your council or any other person or body
f) not disclose any information discussed during a confidential session of a
council meeting.

While Cr Clancy is seeking re-election and a future with the WSC, the results for two female staff members affected by Cr Clancy’s behaviour was not so rosy. Cr Schmidt alleges lack of action in this matter led to the two (female staff members) going on stress leave and then resigning.

Local government elections happen on September 10th with 17 candidates standing for the Warrumbungle Shire.

 

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