Sunday, February 20, 2011

Code of Conduct conclusion

THE Code of Conduct complaint made about me last February reached its conclusion at last week's council meeting, with the tabling of a summary of the determination of the Standards Panel of the Local Government Association of Tasmania. It had been my intention to let the moment pass without comment, but the kind remarks of some of my colleagues at the council table could have led casual observers to believe that I some way accepted the findings of the Standards Panel. In fact I do not accept the panel's decision and it was only the extreme cost of a Supreme Court action that prevented me from lodging an appeal.

As required by legislation, Mayor Martyn Evans tabled a summary of the panel's decision (posted on this website late last year). In addition to providing information required by law, the panel's summary also makes the unfounded allegations that I had attempted to influence a member of staff and that I had failed to exhibit a sound understanding of the respective roles, functions and responsibilities of councillors and council employees.

In fact, the Standards Panel erred in its belief that council staff were not required to declare potential conflicts of interest in the same way as councillors. The chairwoman in particular, a former mayor and president of the LGAT, was quite clear in her spoken remarks to that effect, even after I had mentioned that our own general manager had recently declared an interest in a recommendation before the council and quite properly left the room while it was discussed. The general manager's action was consistent with the council's staff policy manual, which says, in part: "Councillors and staff should ensure that there is no actual (or perceived) conflict or incompatibility between their personal interest and the impartial fulfillment of their public or professional duties."

These remarks of mine should not be taken to imply any criticism of Mr Ian Brown personally or of his decision to make his Code of Conduct complaint against me last February. That was his right, and, as I advised the Code of Conduct Panel and the Standards Panel, I regret that Mr Brown felt that I had failed him as a councillor.

After the tabling of the Standards Panel's report at last week's council meeting and listening to my colleagues' supportive remarks, I read out the following excerpts which were not included in the summary provided to councillors and the public:

* The Standards Panel determined that no evidence was presented to indicate that Cr Bester acted either maliciously or vindictively.

* The Standards Panel determined that no evidence was presented that Cr Bester targetted only the complainant in his statement, or that Cr Bester deliberately or unintentionally misled Council, or that he manipulated an inexperienced mayor to ensure that the complainant had to leave the council meeting.

* The Standards Panel determined that no evidence was presented to support the allegation that Cr Bester's manner and delivery were intended to highlight a personal attack on the complainant.

Given those three statements, and the panel's flawed view on staff conflicts of interest, it must be questioned on what basis I was found to have breached the Councillor Code of Conduct.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fast food petition

EARLIER tonight I received a petition containing the signatures of more than 300 people who are opposed to the proposal of Humana Pty Ltd to build an unspecified fast food restaurant on the corner of George and Burnett Sts in New Norfolk. I have not yet decided how I will vote on this proposal, but it will be my pleasure to table the petition at this week's council meeting and report the concerns of this large body of people.