Office of Local Government stands by keeping Orange councillor anonymous

IT is likely ratepayers will never know which councillor cost them more than $26,000 in code of conduct investigations after a government department supported his anonymity.

In December, councillor Glenn Taylor asked whether the identity of a complainant under the code of conduct, who had sought confidentiality, could be revealed if it was in the public interest.

Cr Taylor referred to a series of 24 complaints made by a councillor against other councillors and staff in August 2015, which cost $26,460 in staff time to investigate.

One allegation had already been dealt with and the rest were dismissed, but the council could not reveal the complainant’s identity because the conduct reviewer had agreed to keep it confidential.

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Mayor John Davis wrote to the NSW Office of Local Government (OLG), saying the matter had a considerable impact on the council’s credibility because all 12 councillors had publicly denied it was them and asked the department to apply the public interest test.

“There are 11 councillors who are strongly of the view that it is in the public interest to identify who made these allegations,” he said.

“It is galling to say the least to know that one councillor responsible for this situation makes public comments condemning the very situation he created and allows to continue.”

However, OLG council governance manager John Davies replied the conduct reviewer’s assessment stood.

“While I acknowledge the concern that this matter is impugning on the integrity of all 12 councillors, there is nothing in the procedures which would authorise or permit the council to disclose the identity of the complainant,” he said.

Cr Davis said he would not argue against the ruling, but he had hoped the matter could be cleared before the September election.

“If you’re a serial offender, there’s got to be some ramifications,” he said.

“The public interest hasn’t been served.”

Councillors will consider a report at Tuesday’s meeting and Cr Taylor said he would move for them to sign a statutory declaration saying they were not responsible.

“It would be voluntary and I can imagine anyone with a clear conscience would sign one,” he said.

He said he could not understand why legislation would protect a councillor who “recklessly” caused resources to be spent on baseless complaints.

“It proves the whole process is an absolute joke,” he said.

He said if the statutory declaration idea did not yield a result, he would pursue a disclosure from his state Labor colleagues under parliamentary privilege.

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