The New South Wales government has commissioned an independent review that will examine the effectiveness of the framework for dealing with councillor misconduct in the state.
Gary Kellar, who was the general manager of Logan City Council for 26 years, has been appointed to carry out the review. Kellar was also acting CEO at Ipswich City Council during 2017 and 2018, while the state audit office and Crime and Corruption Commission investigated the council.
The review will examine the effectiveness of penalties available to councils, the Office of Local Government and the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, according to local government minister Shelley Hancock.
“The Model Code of Conduct sets strict standards of behaviour for the 1,300 councillors at the state’s 128 councils to help ensure the ethical, accountable and transparent operation of local government,” she said on Friday.
“While the majority of councillors do the right thing, the NSW government is determined to ensure those elected representatives who breach community standards face the consequences.”
The probe will also examine the complaints and investigation processes, and the efficacy and timeliness of disciplinary action.
Kellar will take public submissions, consider similar processes in other jurisdictions, and consult with government agencies, stakeholder groups, and councils.
He will make recommendations to government about policy, legislative and operational changes to improve the system for dealing with councillor misconduct.
Hancock said the review would ensure NSW has ‘the strongest system in the country to target bad behaviour and enforce high standards of conduct in our local councils’.
“The NSW government is committed to ensuring that councils and the Office of Local Government are well placed to take quick and effective action against councillors who engage in misconduct so the public can have confidence in the people they elect to represent them,” she said.
The review has been announced just ten days after the state government issued a Performance Improvement Order (PIO) requiring councillors at Dubbo Regional Council to improve their behaviour. Hancock said the government would monitor the council following a ‘turbulent period’.
“This proposed PIO is intended to lift councillor standards of behaviour, ensure proper processes are followed, protect the health and safety of staff, provide strict supervision, and encourage community confidence in Dubbo Regional Council,” she said.
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