Code of Conduct matter should be public says ex mayor

Ex mayor Michael Britten is expected to address council on Wednesday, May 17 in an effort to stop a Code of Conduct matter concerning two Bega Valley Shire councillors being moved into confidential session. 

The matter relates to the proposed Cattle Bay Marina in Eden and in particular to a request by developers Eden Resort Hotel Pty Ltd for a modification to the development consent for the marina, and the discussion about the item, at the December 14, 2016 meeting .

Prior to moving into confidential session Mr Britten is expected to make the following statement:

“The sections of the Local Government Act referred to in the business paper relating to a transfer to closed session, pre date, and did not envisage the current Version 8 Code adopted by council last year, although they may still give council the option to transfer to closed session. 

“1. The reasons not to transfer are incorporated in the detailed procedures set out in the current code adopted last year by this council and they are :- 

             A) The need for an assessment by the general manager as to whether there is prima facie evidence to refer the complaint for investigation by a reviewer appointed by councillors              

            B) In the case of referral the reviewer acts as a judge of facts on the balance of probabilities and takes evidence from all parties, public information and council records, and 

            C) Makes a determination under the rules as to liability of the councillor and recommends a course of action for council to adopt and implement and

            D) Should be referred to a public council meeting as soon as practicable for debate and final determination 

“2. I submit in the circumstances where a reviewer has recommended a requirement that council censure a particular councillor and call for an apology to the council for demeaning the council, that it is incumbent on the council to publicly debate the determination and recommendation before adopting a course of action, so that the matter is dealt with transparently and in the public interest 

“3. It is open to the council, having been addressed by the councillor in question, to adopt a course of action to refuse the reviewers recommendations, alter them, or adopt them; 

“4. The paramount issue is that a reasoned debate and decision is reached in the public interest, no different to an open judiciary system 

“5. I accept that there may be Legal Advice recommended by the reviewer concerning the affect of the actions of the two Councillors in question , on the resolution adopted by the council at that time should be dealt with in closed session, particularly as one motion at the time suggested deferral to allow consideration of the applicants submissions, and as the director of engineering services acknowledged to the meeting, he had not had time to consider those submissions.”

Mr Britten is also expected to ask for the discussion on the Hotel Australasia to be public.

“Assuming this relates to the Australasia and to consideration of exactly what is to be put to public tender, then I submit, as this matter has been considered in open meeting (apart from individual tender details) it is in the public interest to continue debating this issue in open meeting,” Mr Britten’s statement reads.

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