Heated debate over code of conduct

The council meeting agenda for Wednesday, August 9 contained just one item to be heard in confidential session relating to the code of conduct issue affecting councillors Robyn Bain and Russell Fitzpatrick. 

Both councillors wanted the matter heard in open session and a passionate debate ensued, but it was resolved to keep the discussion in closed session.

Two procedural matters relating to the code of conduct were at the heart of the discussion: that councillors did not have the full report when asked to make a decision; and that the reasons why council did not accept the code of conduct investigator’s recommendations on Cr Fitzpatrick were not included in the minutes, but added later.

In a reference to the procedural issues and in speaking for the matter to be heard in open session, councillor Tony Allen said it was the “fault of this council that we’re discussing this again”.

“There are major issues with the report. People need to hear this, there’s no sense of justice. These two people are completely innocent. It’s not fair,” Cr Allen said.

“It’s horrendous. This has gone on and on. They have been ostracised because one person wanted to throw dirt,” he added.

But councillor Sharon Tapscott wanted the discussion in closed session.

“We have to be cognisant of other people that need protecting other than ourselves,” Cr Tapscott said.

Councillor Cathy Griff also wanted the matter in closed session.

“Open session may not get you what you want. What happens in open session in this case is having to be extremely careful and that’s not always in the best interest of those involved,” Cr Griff said.

Councillor Mitchell Nadin disagreed calling the code of conduct “a brutal beast” which he was glad was being reviewed by government.

Cr Bain accused Cr Tapscott of having read the report prior to being formally given it by the general manager.

“I wish this whole thing would be in open session but the sisterhood will not allow it,” Cr Bain said.

Despite the heat of the open session, the result of the lengthy closed session was short.

In returning to open session the general manager Leanne Barnes said that in the matter of Cr Fitzpatrick, the resolution was endorsed and the reasons included in the resolution as required.

“In relation to Cr Bain the resolution of May 17 was endorsed and the matter is now considered concluded,” Ms Barnes said.

Crs Tony Allen and Mitchell Nadin voted against the motion.

Councillors also acknowledged the apology by the general manager to Crs Bain and Fitzpatrick and to council for the matter needing to be reconsidered due to the procedural oversights.

Additional training on code of conduct matters is planned.