2018 Media Releases

Code of Conduct – Information

05 December 2018


There has been discussion and questions in our community about Councillors’ Code of Conduct and how they’re investigated and managed. Particularly, Councillor Coppock has published a four page newsletter that outlines his point of view on complaints against him.

Council's spokespersons are unable to comment in any detail on Councillor Coppock's newsletter or related media coverage as we are required to, and will, abide by the confidentiality privacy provisions of the Local Government Act and Council's Code of Conduct. These provisions are designed to respect the privacy of individuals involved. As you can appreciate, public comments and news articles such as these place Council's spokespersons, and more particularly the Mayor and General Manager, at a disadvantage as they cannot condone, correct or refute information. This means it’s not possible to provide balance to the statements made as it would involve breaching confidentiality and potential sanctions.

To ensure an agreed standard of behaviour is maintained, Council adopts a Code of Conduct that sets the minimum standard in which Councillors and staff will behave. The Code of Conduct also sets a process to be followed in the investigation when a breach of these standards occurs. Penalties for breaches can include suspension or disqualification from civic office.

The process for Code of Conduct reviews is undertaken by qualified investigators independent of Council. The person(s) against whom a complaint is made are provided with opportunities to respond and participate in the investigation, but cannot be compelled to do so. Advice is always sought from the Office of Local Government (OLG) to ensure that correct and fair processes are followed. OLG can undertake reviews and initiate actions in its own right at any time and does not require a request from staff or any other person.

Where an investigator finds breaches of the Local Government Act or Code of Conduct, their recommendations are considered by Council in confidence (as required by the Act) and the resolutions are made public in the Council minutes. See the relevant meeting minutes from this year:

Council publishes an annual summary of Code of Conduct matters and this is publicly available in the pdf format General Council Meeting Agenda - 8 October 2018 (pages 23-28).

To clarify points raised in news reports and Councillor Coppock’s newsletter:

There are provisions for confidentiality which Council abides by as part of the Local Government Act. Resolutions from confidential reports are published as soon as possible following consideration of the report. Most relate to the awarding of tenders with the successful tenderer also being named at the same meeting following Council’s consideration of the commercial in confidence information.

With regard to briefings of Councillors, these are envisaged and encouraged in the "Part 13 Workshops" of the pdf format Meetings Practice Note (page 66) issued by the Office of Local Government. Councillors are informed on what is and isn't confidential information at briefings and information is made available to all Councillors. The briefings are not decision-making forums. They provide the opportunity for Councillors to receive information and ask questions for clarification on complex and strategic matters. Briefings enable Councillors to develop further knowledge and expertise to assist their decision making and role as a public official. The matters are usually discussed prior to them being reported formally to Council, most via public reports excepting legal advice.

In terms of The Concourse, information has been publicly provided, including a briefing to the North Shore Times and to stakeholders. That information detailed  that Council sought Expressions of Interest from suitably qualified contractors and that Council will finalise tenders in the new year. Any work to be undertaken with regard to the cladding materials will make the facility even safer than it currently is. When Council considers and resolves on the tenders, the cost of the works will be established and made public. Council has a reserve in excess of $15 million available for works on The Concourse with an established funding model to replenish it.

Finally, in relation to the issue of Councillor Coppock’s remuneration, please refer to the series of public responses to Questions on Notice raised by Cr Coppock in relation to this in the Council minutes. Council’s responses to the remuneration questions were based upon legal advice and advice from OLG. See the pdf format General Council Meeting Minutes 13 August 2018 (from page 33).

While limited in what can be discussed given confidentiality provisions, Council hopes the information above creates perspective and offers some clarity. At the heart of these matters are requirements in the Code of Conduct and the Local Government Act to treat staff and Councillors with respect, to not engage in personal attacks in public forums and to maintain confidentiality of information.

Useful links:

Media Contact
Acting Marketing and Events Manager
Phone: 9777 7703
Mobile: 0455 061 700
Email: Samantha.Connor@Willoughby.nsw.gov.au 

For non media related enquiries contact Willoughby City Council on 9777 1000 or email@willoughby.nsw.gov.au