Recently, the Councillor Conduct Tribunal (the CCT) has determined that the following types of actions will constitute misconduct:
- Failure to afford respect to all council employees equally and without discrimination based on age, gender or skin colour;
- Deliberate mistruths, misleading statements and reckless conduct dissolves the supreme confidence invested in a Councillor to make decisions honestly and with the highest degree of personal integrity;
- Unacceptable words, gestures and actions of a Councillor may constitute a breach of the LGA principles, regardless of whether the Councillor is “off-duty” at the time;
- Failure to disclose and/or deal with a conflict of interest in a transparent and accountable manner; and
- Engaging in behaviour that offends the prohibition against sexual harassment and unwarranted physical contact of others.
Before assuming their role in public office, Councillors must understand and commit to complying with the local government principles in accordance with section 169 of the Local Government Act 2009 (Qld) (LGA), as well as the requirements set out in the Code of Conduct prepared by the Minister of Local Government (the Minister).
Councillors are required to comply with the following five LGA principles throughout the duration of their roles as elected representatives:
- Transparent and effective processes, and decision-making in the public interest;
- Sustainable development and management of assets and infrastructure, and delivery of effective services;
- Democratic representation, social inclusion and meaningful community engagement;
- Good governance of, and by, local government; and
- Ethical and legal behaviour of Councillors and local government employees.
The Minister’s Code of Conduct provides a set of values and standards of behaviour aimed to assist Councillors in their compliance with the above five LGA principles. The Code of Conduct is aimed to assist Councillors to understand how the principles function and the consequences they may face if those principles are breached.
The standards of behaviour of Councillors, derived from the Code of Conduct are summarized as follows:
- Carry out responsibilities conscientiously and in the best interest of the Council and the community;
- Treat people in a reasonable, just and respectful and non-discriminatory way; and
- Ensure conduct does not reflect adversely on the reputation of the Council.
It is important to note that the above standards are merely a guide for Councillors and are not intended to cover every possible scenario.
The Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA) is responsible for assessing complaints and determining the extent of the allegation. The OIA may, when necessary, make an application to the CCT for the allegation to be heard and determined.
The CCT has the power to order a number of penalties on a Councillor if they are found to have engaged in misconduct. These penalties include, but are not limited to the following:
- Reimburse Council for costs caused by their misconduct;
- Recommend to the Minister that the Councillor be suspended or dismissed from office; and
- Resign from a position representing Council, other than the office of Councillor itself.
The recent scenarios of misconduct, as listed above, serve as a reminder for Councillors to consistently maintain their commitment and compliance with the LGA principles.
Please contact our Local Government Team on (07) 4052 0700 if you require further advice.