Councillor Code of Conduct | City of Casey
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Adopted 17 May 2016

Councillor Code of Conduct

Version 9.1

Purpose

The purpose of local government is to provide a system under which Councils perform the functions and exercise the powers conferred by or under the Local Government Act 1989 and any other Act for the peace, order and good government of their municipal districts. Good governance relies on good working relations between councillors.

This code:

  • specifies the agreed standard of Councillor behaviour required for the ethical and professional performance of duties under Section 76C of the Local Government Act 1989 (the Act);
  • Endeavours to foster good working relations between councillors to enable Councillors to work constructively together in the best interests of the local community; and
  • Mandates councillor conduct designed to build public confidence in the integrity of local government

Definitions

Council

means Casey City Council, being a body corporate constituted as a municipal Council under the Local Government Act 1989

Councillors

means the individuals holding the office of a member of Casey City Council

Council officer

means the Chief Executive Officer and staff of Council appointed by the Chief Executive Officer.

Scope

This Code applies to all Councillors.

Context

Councillors are leaders elected to Council to provide vision, strategic direction and to make policy decisions for the benefit of the whole community.

They are required to work together constructively and this Code is a collective agreement detailing the standards Councillors will be held accountable to.

Councillors will adhere to all relevant laws, regulations and policies and in particular, this Code should be read in conjunction with the:

Code

When a Councillor is elected they swear to uphold the oath of office which states that they will:

undertake the duties of the office of Councillor in the best interests of the people in the municipal district of Casey and faithfully and impartially carry out the functions, powers, authorities and discretions vested in me under the Local Government Act 1989or any other Act to the best of my skill and judgment."

Councillors are to make this declaration, in writing and witnessed by the CEO, that they abide by the Councillor Code of Conduct within one month of its approval.

5.1 Purpose and Commitment

In addition to upholding the Oath of Office, the Councillors, as community and civic leaders of the City of Casey, commit to lead by example, promoting the highest standards and accountability in the way Council business is conducted.

In doing so, Councillors will:

  • Strive at all times to achieve continuous improvement in performance and outcomes for the City of Casey
  • Encourage a positive culture focused on results and high quality customer service
  • Adopt straight forward and effective customer focused approaches to governance, to minimise inefficient processes and red tape

5.2 Leadership Roles and Responsibilities

An understanding and agreement of the different roles within Council helps achieve good governance. The key roles are outlined below.

Role of the Council

The Council of the City of Casey comprises eleven Councillors who are democratically elected by the community in accordance with the Local Government Act 1989.

The primary role of the Council is to provide leadership for the good governance of the City of Casey.

It includes:

acting as a representative government by taking into account the diverse needs of the local community in decision-making;

  • providing leadership by establishing strategic objectives and monitoring their achievement;
  • maintaining the viability of the council by ensuring that resources are managed in a responsible and accountable manner;
  • advocating the interests of the local community to other communities and governments;
  • fostering community cohesion and encouraging active participation in civic life; and
  • making all decisions impartially and in the best interests of the whole community.

Council has a statutory responsibility to represent all people that live, participate in and invest within the municipality.

Role of a Councillor

Section 65 of the Act provides that the role of a Councillor is:

  • to participate in the decision-making of the Council; and
  • to represent the local community in that decision-making; and
  • to contribute to the strategic direction of the Council through the development and review of key strategic documents of the Council, including the Council Plan.

In performing the role of a Councillor, a Councillor must:

  • consider the diversity of interests and needs of the local community; and
  • observe principles of good governance and act with integrity; and
  • provide civic leadership in relation to the exercise of the various functions and responsibilities of the Council under this Act and other Acts; and
  • participate in the responsible allocation of the resources of Council through the annual budget; and
  • facilitate effective communication between the Council and the community.

The role of a Councillor does not include the performance of any functions that are specified as functions of the Chief Executive Officer under section 94A of the Act.

Councillors should not be involved in the operational decisions of the organisation or its services and, in adherence s. 76D of the Local Government Act 1989, will not misuse their position to direct or influence staff.

Role of the Mayor

The Mayor is the elected leader of the Council and is the key official representative and spokesperson of Council. The Mayor has a key role in facilitating good relationships between Councillors, and between Councillors, the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Management Team.

Section 73AA of the Act describes the functions of the Mayor as including:

  • providing guidance to Councillors about what is expected of a Councillor including in relation to the role of a Councillor under section 65, and the observation of the Councillor conduct principles and the Councillor Code of Conduct by Councillors under sections 76B, 76BA and 76C; and
  • acting as the principal spokesperson for the council; and
  • supporting good working relations between councillors; and
  • carrying out the civic and ceremonial duties of the office of Mayor.
  • chairing Council Meetings and ensuring and encouraging participation of Councillors in decision making processes;
  • maintaining a close working relationship with the Chief Executive Officer, thereby creating and ensuring positive relationships with the organisation, leading to good planning, identification and resolution of issues;
  • fostering positive relationships with various stakeholders, including government agencies and peak bodies;
  • promoting a positive image of Council and its organisational culture.
  • establishing industry partnerships and networks and actively promoting Council’s interests;
  • creating and maintaining political stability within the Council.

The Mayor will take a leadership role in consultation, advice and mediation as required in accordance with Council’s agreed Dispute and Conflict Resolution process outlined in 5.5 below.

Role of the Deputy Mayor/s

The role of the Deputy Mayor/s,(which is not a statutory position) is to give effective support to the Mayor by chairing meetings, attending functions and being the Council spokesperson where the Mayor is unavailable.

The Deputy Mayor will take a leadership role in consultation, advice and mediation as required in accordance with Council’s agreed dispute and conflict resolution process outlined in 5.5 below.

Functions of the Chief Executive Officer

The Chief Executive Officer is responsible for:

  • establishing and maintaining an appropriate organisational structure for the Council; and
  • ensuring that the decisions of the Council are implemented without undue delay; and
  • the day to day management of the Council’s operations in accordance with the Council Plan; and
  • developing, adopting and disseminating a code of conduct for Council staff; and
  • providing timely advice to the Council; and
  • ensuring that the Council receives timely and reliable advice about its legal obligations under this Act and any other Act;
  • supporting the Mayor in the performance of the Mayor’s role as Mayor;
  • carrying out the Council’s responsibilities as a deemed employer with respect to Councillors, as deemed workers, which arise under or with respect to the Accident Compensation Act 1985 or the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013; and
  • performing any other function or duty of the Chief Executive Officer specified in this Act or any other Act.

The Chief Executive Officer is responsible for managing interactions between Council staff and Councillors including by ensuring that appropriate policies, practices and protocols are in place defining appropriate arrangements for interaction between Council staff and Councillors.

Councillors must respect the functions of the Chief Executive Officer and comply with the policies, practices and protocols defining appropriate arrangements for interaction between Council staff and Councillors that are put in place by the Chief Executive Officer.

5.3 Councillor Conduct Principles

The Act sets out some standard councillor conduct principles. Sections 76B of the Act state that:

It is a primary principle of Councillor conduct that, in performing the role of a Councillor, a Councillor must—

(a) act with integrity; and

(b) impartially exercise his or her responsibilities in the interests of the local community; and

(c) not improperly seek to confer an advantage or disadvantage on any person.

Section 76BA of the Act sets out the general principles of councillor conduct as follows:

In addition to acting in accordance with the primary principle of Councillor conduct specified in section 76B of the Act, in performing the role of a Councillor, a Councillor must—

(a) avoid conflicts between his or her public duties as a Councillor and his or her personal interests and obligations;

(b) act honestly and avoid statements (whether oral or in writing) or actions that will or are likely to mislead or deceive a person;

(c) treat all persons with respect and have due regard to the opinions, beliefs, rights and responsibilities of other Councillors, Council staff and other persons;

(d) exercise reasonable care and diligence and submit himself or herself to the lawful scrutiny that is appropriate to his or her office;

(e) endeavour to ensure that public resources are used prudently and solely in the public interest;

(f) act lawfully and in accordance with the trust placed in him or her as an elected representative;

(g) support and promote these principles by leadership and example and act in a way that secures and preserves public confidence in the office of Councillor.

5.4 Councillor conduct

Good governance at Council is dependent on how well the relationship between the elected members and the organisation works, as well as mutual respect and understanding between councillors and officers in relation to their respective roles, functions and responsibilities.

Councillor Relationships with Council Staff

As detailed in Section 94A of the Act, the CEO is responsible for Council staff which includes appointing, directing and managing staff. Councillors will not involve themselves in any personnel matter relating to staff, except for the CEO and will advise the CEO if they have concerns that staff have taken action contrary to a formal policy or decision of Council.

Misuse of position

In order to effectively fulfil their role elected representatives are provided with information, privileges and power. In order to maintain the integrity of their position and the reputation of Council, Councillors must not misuse, or seek to misuse, their position.

Please see Section 76D of the Local Government Act 1989 to view the requirements in full.

In summary this means that Councillors must not seek to gain an advantage for themselves or any other person, cause detriment to the Council or another person, improperly use information acquired through their position as a Councillor, disclose confidential information, improperly direct or influence Council staff, improperly use public resources or fail to declare a conflict of interest.

Improper direction and improper Influence

Many Council officers hold positions which require specialised knowledge and skills. It is the duty of the Council officer to provide information, advice and recommendations to the best of their professional ability.

Councillors cannot direct or improperly influence, or attempt to direct or improperly influence, the functions, duties, actions, recommendations or advice provided by Council officers.

Please see Section 76E of the Local Government Act 1989 to view the requirements in full.

Confidentiality

Councillors are provided with a wide range of information in order for them to fulfil their role. Often, that includes confidential information that they would not otherwise have access to. The Act stipulates that Councillors cannot release or disclose information that they know, or should reasonably know, is confidential.

Please see Section 77 of the Local Government Act 1989 to view the requirements in full.

Conflict of Interest

From time to time a Councillor’s personal or family interests may overlap with a particular Council activity. The Act recognises this and outlines the conditions in which a Councillor is considered to have a conflict of interest or a personal interest, and the actions they must take to maintain the integrity of the decision making process.

Please see Sections 77A through to 79D of the Local Government Act 1989 to view the requirements in full.

5.5 Dispute and Conflict Resolution

This dispute and conflict resolution process is intended to be used in the event Councillors have been unable to resolve a dispute or an interpersonal conflict amongst themselves, or where the situation is unduly affecting the operation of the Council. It is not intended to resolve differences in policy or decision making, which are appropriately resolved through discussion, debate and voting in Council.

Disputes between Councillors

Conflict and/or disputes emerge when the differences between Councillors become personal or the behaviour of Councillors towards each other is of a nature that threatens the effective operation of Council’s decision-making process. Before commencing any formal dispute resolution process, Councillors who are parties to any disagreement, have an individual and collective responsibility to try every avenue possible to resolve such disputes between themselves in a courteous and respectful manner to prevent them from further escalating.

A dispute may arise between two individual Councillors, between one Councillor and a group of Councillors or between two or more different groups of Councillors. The following dispute resolution procedure will apply regardless of the dynamics and numbers involved.

The Council’s three phase dispute resolution process involves:

  • direct negotiation between the parties in dispute with the Mayor (or Deputy Mayor) in attendance to provide guidance;
  • external mediation by an independent mediator engaged by the Chief Executive Officer; and
  • an internal resolution procedure involving an independent arbiter.

Phase 1 – Direct negotiation

Where Councillors who are in dispute have not been able to resolve the dispute between them, either (or both) party (parties) may request the Mayor to convene a meeting of the parties.

A dispute referred for direct negotiation may relate to:

  • an interpersonal conflict between Councillors where the conflict is or is likely to affect the operations of the Council; or
  • an alleged contravention of the Councillor Code of Conduct.

The party requesting the direct negotiation meeting is to provide the Mayor with the name of the other Councillor and the details of the dispute in writing.
 

The requestor is to notify the other party of the request and provide him or her with a copy of the written request either at the same time as it is provided to the Mayor or as soon as practicable thereafter.

The Mayor is to ascertain whether or not the other party is prepared to attend a “direct negotiation” meeting.

If the other party is not prepared to attend a meeting, the Mayor is to advise the requestor forthwith. No further action is required of the Mayor.

If the other party declines to participate in a meeting, this does not constitute a contravention of this Councillor Code of Conduct.

If the other party consents to a meeting, the Mayor is to convene a meeting of the parties at the earliest available opportunity. Unless one or both parties are unavailable, this should be within 5 working days of receiving the consent of the other party.

The role of the Mayor at the meeting is to provide guidance to Councillors about what is expected of a Councillor including in relation to the role of a Councillor under section 65 of the Act, and the observation of the councillor conduct principles and the Councillor Code of Conduct.

The Mayor is to document any agreement reached at the meeting. Copies of the agreement are to be provided to both parties. Where one party does not comply with the agreement, the other party has recourse to external mediation or the internal resolution procedure where the matter relates to an alleged contravention of the Councillor Code of Conduct.

If the parties cannot resolve the dispute at the meeting, a further meeting may be convened with the consent of both parties. Where the dispute remains unresolved, either or both of the parties have recourse to external mediation or the internal resolution procedure where the matter relates to an alleged contravention of the Councillor Code of Conduct.

Where the Mayor is a party to the dispute, the request is to be made to the Deputy Mayor (if any) or the immediate past Mayor. The Deputy Mayor or the immediate past Mayor will perform the functions ascribed to the Mayor.

Phase 3 - Internal resolution procedure – Arbiter

A councillor or a group of councillors may make an application alleging that a Councillor has contravened this Councillor Code of Conduct. The application must:

  • specify the name of the Councillor alleged to have contravened the Code;
  • specify the provision(s) of the Code that is alleged to have been contravened;
  • include evidence in support of the allegation;
  • name the Councillor appointed to be their representative where the application is made by a group of councillors; and
  • be signed and dated by the applicant or the applicant’s representative.


The application must be submitted to the Council’s Principal Conduct Officer.

An applicant may withdraw an application for an internal resolution procedure. Once an application has been withdrawn, the same or a similar application relating to the same instance in relation to the respondent Councillor cannot be resubmitted by the applicant.

On receiving an application, the Principal Conduct Officer will:

  • advise the Mayor and CEO of the application without undue delay;
  • provide a copy of the application to the Councillor who is the subject of the allegation at the earliest practical opportunity but not later than two working days from receipt of the application;
  • identify an arbiter to hear the application;
  • obtain from the arbiter written advice that they have no conflict of interest in relation to the Councillors involved;
  • notify the parties of the name of the proposed arbiter and provide them with the opportunity (2 working days) to object to the person proposed to be the arbiter;
  • consider the grounds of any objection and appoint the proposed arbiter or identify another arbiter;
  • provide a copy of the application to the arbiter as soon as practicable after the opportunity for the parties to object to an arbiter has expired;
  • after consultation with the arbiter, advise the applicant and the respondent of the time and place for the hearing; and
  • attend the hearing(s) and assist the arbiter in the administration of the process

In identifying an arbiter to hear the application, the Principal Conduct Officer must select an arbiter who is suitably independent and able to carry out the role of arbiter fairly.

The role of the arbiter is to:

  • consider applications alleging a contravention of the Councillor Code of Conduct by a Councillor;
  • make findings in relation to any application alleging a contravention of the Councillor Code of Conduct which the arbiter must give to the Council;
  • give a written statement of reasons supporting the findings to the Council at the same time as it gives its findings to the Council;
  • recommend an appropriate sanction or sanctions where the arbiter has found that a Councillor has contravened the Councillor Code of Conduct.

In considering an application alleging a contravention of the Councillor Code of Conduct, an arbiter will:

  • in consultation with the Principal Conduct Officer, fix a time and place to hear the application;
  • authorise the Principal Conduct Officer to formally notify the applicant and the respondent of the time and place of the hearing;
  • hold as many meetings as he or she considers necessary to properly consider the application. The arbiter may hold a directions hearing;
  • have discretion to conduct the hearings as he or she deems fit while ensuring that the hearings are conducted with as little formality and technicality as due and proper consideration of the application allows;
  • ensure that the parties to and affected by an application are given an opportunity to be heard by the arbiter;
  • consider an application by a respondent to have legal representation at the hearing to ensure that the hearing is conducted fairly and may, in his or her absolute discretion, grant the application or deny the application;
  • ensure that the rules of natural justice are observed and applied in the hearing of the application; and
  • ensure that the hearings are closed to the public.

Where an application to have legal representation is granted by an arbiter, the costs of the applicant/respondent’s legal representation are to be borne by the applicant/respondent in their entirety.

An arbiter:

  • may find that a Councillor who is a respondent to an internal resolution procedure application has not contravened the Code;
  • may find that a Councillor who is a respondent to an internal resolution procedure has contravened the Code;
  • will suspend consideration of an internal resolution procedure during the election period for a general election.

The arbiter is to give a copy of his or her findings and the statement of reasons to the Council, the applicant and the respondent. At the same time, the arbiter provides the findings and statement of reasons, he or she shall, where a Councillor has been found to have contravened the Code, recommend an appropriate sanction or sanctions for the contravention for consideration by the Council.

A copy of the arbiter’s findings, statement of reasons and any recommended sanctions is to be submitted to the next ordinary meeting of the Council for its consideration. If an arbiter has found that a contravention of the Code has occurred, the Council may, after considering the arbiter’s findings, statement of reasons and recommendation on sanctions, give any or all of the following written directions to the Councillor:

  • direct the Councillor to make an apology in a form or manner specified by the Council;
  • direct the Councillor to not attend up to, but not exceeding, 2 meetings of the Council (in respect of the next scheduled meetings of the Council);
  • direct that, for a period of up to, but not exceeding, 2 months on a date specified by the Council the Councillor:
    • be removed from any position where the Councillor represents the Council; and
    • to not chair or attend any advisory committee or special committee meeting or an assembly of Councillors or any other meeting specified in the direction.

A Councillor who does not participate in the internal resolution procedure may be guilty of misconduct. The Act provides that misconduct by a Councillor means any of the following:

  • failure by a Councillor to comply with the Council’s internal resolution procedure; or
  • failure by a Councillor to comply with a written direction given by the Council under section 81AB; or
  • repeated contravention of any of the Councillor conduct principles.

An application cannot be made for an internal resolution procedure during the election period for a general election. Any internal resolution procedure that is in progress is to be suspended during the election period for a general election.

If the respondent to an application for an internal resolution procedure is not returned to office as a Councillor in the election, the application lapses. If the respondent is returned to office in the election, the application may resume if:

  • the application was made by the Council and the Council so resolves; or
  • the application were made by a group of Councillors and any one (or more) of those Councillors who has been returned to office wishes to proceed with the application; or
  • the applicant (individual Councillor) is returned to office and wishes to proceed with the application.

Allegations of misconduct are heard on application by a Councillor Conduct Panel.

Disputes between Councillors and Staff

The Chief Executive Officer has sole responsibility for the management of Council staff. In the event of a Councillor wishing to lodge a complaint against a member of Council staff, this complaint must be lodged with the CEO.

Where the complaint is about the CEO the Councillor concerned will raise the matter in camera under Urgent Business at the Council Meeting. The Council will then determine how the complaint will be mediated/resolved.

Where a staff member has a complaint in respect of a Councillor, the complaint may be made to the CEO who will, if deemed appropriate, discuss the matter with the Mayor. Where the Mayor deems a breach of the Councillor Code of Conduct has occurred, the Mayor will progress the matter in accordance with this dispute resolution process.

Where the complaint involves the Mayor, the CEO will discuss the matter with the Deputy Mayor.

Administrative updates

It is recognised that, from time to time, circumstances may change leading to the need for minor administrative changes to this document. Where an update does not materially alter this document, such a change may be made administratively. Examples include a change to the name of a Council department, a change to the name of a Federal or State Government department, and a minor update to legislation which does not have a material impact. However, any change or update which materially alters this document must be by resolution of Council.

Review

We undertake to meet regularly and at least every six months to reflect on and assess our behaviours, delivery of our Common Purpose and Councillor Conduct Principles set out in this document. The reflection and assessment will be on the basis of us as individuals and as a group. The six monthly reviews will be conducted by the end of March and September of each year.

The next bi-annual review of this document is scheduled for completion by 30 December 2016.

Contraventions

Contraventions of the Councillor Code of Conduct will be dealt with under the following provisions of the Act, along with other legislative provisions as may apply:

  • Section 76B
  • Section 76BA
  • Section 76D
  • Section 76E
  • Section 77
  • Section 81B
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