CODE of Conduct considerations occupied nearly 40 minutes of Coffs Harbour City Council’s regular meeting this week.
Councillors finally voted to receive and note two reports from sole conduct reviewer Kath Roach of Sinc Solutions Pty Ltd and to accept her recommendations, but not before Cr Mark Graham tried strenuously to persuade his fellow councillors to ask the general manager to refer the allegations back to the council’s current three-member Code of Conduct Review Committee, whose members are Susan Green, John Carty and Judith Fleming.
When those members were appointed on August 12, 2010, as part of the same motion, councillors also agreed to use members of Greater Taree City Council’s Code of Conduct Review Committee when and if required, as offered by Greater Taree. Ms Roach is a member of the GTCC Conduct Review Committee.
Ms Roach found allegations that the mayor breached the council’s Code of Conduct at a council meeting on August 2 and a subsequent radio interview were not sustained but an allegation that the then deputy mayor Cr Bill Palmer breached the Code during a radio interview on August 3 was sustained.
She recommended that Cr Palmer apologise. On Thursday, Cr Palmer apologised to his fellow councillors and members of the public, saying he recognised his references to a section of the public gallery as “losers and never-will-bes” and “dregs of the community” during the August 2 council meeting were not appropriate and he was sorry.
He also apologised to Cr Graham for ‘an outburst’ towards him at the same meeting.
In moving to re-review the review, Cr Graham told the council he was concerned that Ms Roach’s previous provision of advice to CHCC on corporate governance matters regarding the Rigby House re-fit could be seen as a conflict of interest, as her company had derived a financial benefit from providing those services.
Cr Kerry Hines asked if it was council’s policy to go outside the local area for a Code of Conduct reviewer, using the same logic as choosing a jury, and the mayor said it had been up to the acting general manager at the time.
Cr Hines asked who was reviewing other Code of Conduct allegations, and the general manager, Steve McGrath, said to the best of his knowledge, it was the same sole conduct reviewer.
Cr Bonfield asked if someone was successful with a tender and later put up for a second tender, did that mean that person had a conflict of interest.