Orange councillors feel the heat from state-wide corruption inquiries

TOO ONEROUS: Councillor Russell Turner says records management requirements could deter people from running for council. 
Photo: STEVE GOSCH 0822sgcouncil1

TOO ONEROUS: Councillor Russell Turner says records management requirements could deter people from running for council. Photo: STEVE GOSCH 0822sgcouncil1

INDEPENDENT Commission Against Corruption investigations in metropolitan councils are being felt at Orange City Council, with the state government imposing extra requirements on councillors to report their activities.

According to a draft policy on records management for councillors, which Orange councillors endorsed for public exhibition on Thursday night, any mail sent to councillors through the council will be opened and processed by council records staff before being provided to councillors in hard copy.

Councillor Russell Turner also questioned general manager Garry Styles on whether councillors needed to report to council in writing when residents contacted them with concerns, if they attended a public rally or if they wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper as a councillor. 

Mr Styles said, technically, councillors should refer those activities in writing, however he said there was some flexibility for councillors to make diary notes in case matters needed to be followed up.

“Everything within Orange City Council as far as the councillors have been working fairly well - I agree it is an overreaction to some of the unfortunate incidents in Sydney with ICAC,” Cr Turner said after the meeting.

“If we did everything by the letter of the law, sure, a lot of people would say, ‘I don’t have time’ - I also don’t want to get into a situation where the general manager has to spend half an hour every day to evaluate whether we should give a report or not.”

Cr Turner said too many requirements could turn prospective councillors off nominating in elections at all.

“I wouldn’t like to think we would get to that stage,” he said.

“The one positive is it makes us aware of what our responsibilities are, that we represent the people, not ourselves.”

The policy is intended to protect councillors in the event questions are raised about their conduct.

danielle.cetinski@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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