Council censures two councillors for misconduct

Susanna Freymark

Kyogle Council went into closed session for part of its Monday, August 14 meeting.

The Code of Conduct breaches by two councillors were discussed confidentially.

No details of the misconduct by either councillor were given, other than the clauses of the Code of Conduct they breached.

The information about the situations that led to the breaches is scant because the details are confidential.

The councillors left the chamber during discussions of their own individual breaches.

Here is what has been made public from that discussion.

Allegations of misconduct by Councillors James Murray and Tom Cooper were investigated by an external independent code of conduct investigator. The investigator is part of a panel of professionals appointed through a recruitment process undertaken jointly by all Northern Rivers councils.

The investigator found that Mr Murray committed a “flagrant” breach of the Councillor and Staff Interaction Policy and the Code of Conduct and his actions were considered “deliberate, not inadvertent”.

In accordance with the investigator’s report recommendation, Mr Murray was formally censured under the Local Government Act for conducting himself in a manner that was “likely to bring the council or other council officials into disrepute”.

Another breach involved Mr Murray inappropriately interacting with council staff and attempting to direct them in their duties. Under the Local Government Act, councillors must not direct staff in their duties.

Mr Murray was told he must not be overbearing or threatening to council staff, and that he must consider issues consistently, promptly and fairly.

The investigator’s findings for Mr Cooper were that there had been a “serious” breach of the Councillor and Staff Interaction Policy and the Code of Conduct.

That breach was listed as: Councillors or administrators must not contact a member of the staff of the council on council-related business unless in accordance with the policy and procedures governing the interaction of councillors and council staff that have been authorised by the council and the general manager.

Most breaches by the councillors related to inappropriate behaviour towards staff.

Each investigation had to be voted on by the council.

The vote to censure Mr Murray was unanimous.

Those voting to censure Mr Cooper were Kylie Thomas, Danielle Mulholland, John Burley, Janet Wilson and Hayden Doolan.

Those voting against censuring Mr Cooper were Maggie May, Robert Cullen and James Murray.

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