Election Period Policy | City of Casey
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19 July 2016

Election Period Policy

1.1

Definitions

Council means Casey City Council, being a body corporate constituted as a municipal Council under the Local Government Act 1989---empty-tag---
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
The Act the Local Government Act 1989
Major Policy Decision

section 93A of the Act defines major policy decisions as:

  • the appointment or dismissal of a CEO, or the renumeration of a CEO
  • approval of contracts with a total value exceeding $1.863 million (this is 1% of Council's total revenue from rates under s.158 in the preceding financial year); and
  • the exercise of any entrepreneurial power under s.193
Election Period a period of time determined by the State Government immediately prior to a Local Government Election where the current Council have restricted decision making powers
Electoral Matter material which is printed, published or otherwise communicated which addresses issues connected to the election, a candidate or which is likely or intended to affect voting in the election
Public Consultation process which invites individuals, groups, organisations or the community generally to comment on an issue, proposed action or policy
Event or Function a gathering of internal and/or external stakeholders to discuss, review, acknowledge, communicate or celebrate a program, strategy or issuie which is of relevance to the Council and its community and may take the form of conferences, workshops, forums, launches, propotional activities, social occasions such as dinners, receptions and balls
VEC Victorian Electoral Commission

Scope

This policy covers:

a) decisions that are made by Council, a special committee of the Council, or a delegate of the Council;

b) any material that is published by the Council;

c) attendance and participation in functions and events;

d) the use of Council resources;

e) access to Council information; and

f) media services.
 

Context

The Act prohibits councils from publishing or distributing electoral matter during the election period and from the making ‘major policy decisions’. This policy ensures Council fulfils its legislative obligations whilst facilitating the continuation of the ordinary Council business.

This policy is to be read and applied in conjunction with Council’s:

  • Governance Charter
  • Councillor Code of Conduct
  • Councillors Support and Reimbursement Policy

For ease of reference, relevant excerpts from the Local Government Act 1989 have been reproduced as attachments.

Policy

Decision Making

Major Policy and inappropriate decisions

During the election period, s.93A of the Act prohibits Council, Special Committees or a person under Council’s delegation from making major policy decisions as follows:

  • The appointment, dismissal or remuneration of the Chief Executive Officer
  • Approval of contracts with a total value exceeding $1.863m (this is 1% of Council’s total revenue from rates and charges under s.158 in the preceding financial year)
  • The exercise of entrepreneurial power under s. 193 of the Act.
  • Any major policy decision made during the election period is invalid under the Act.

To avoid confusion, announcement of any major decisions should be made before the election period commences.

Inappropriate decisions

During the election period, Council in accordance with s.93B of the Act will not make inappropriate decisions that

  • may or may be perceived to affect voting in the election or
  • which could reasonably be made after the election

Communications

Published material

Under section 55D of the Act, it is prohibited for Council to print, publish, distribute or authorise to be printed, published or distributed, material which contains electoral matter.

During the election period, all publications are required to be certified in writing by the CEO, stating they do not contain any electoral matter, in accordance with section 55 D of the Act.

Publications which require certification include:

  • Brochures, pamphlets, handbills, flyers, magazines and books;
  • Council newsletters;
  • Advertisements, and public notices;
  • Media releases;
  • Mass mail outs or letters sent to large number of people by or on behalf of Council;
  • emails to multiple addresses, used for broad communication with the community;
  • New website material;
  • Social media publications (which includes Facebook and Twitter posts).

Information published prior to Election Period on Council’s social media and website is not subject to CEO certification.

Certification by CEO

In considering whether to certify/give approval for the publication of material during the Election Period, the CEO in accordance with the provisions of the Act:

a) Must not permit any materials to be published which include reference to the following:

  • the election
  • a candidate in the election
  • a current Councillor; or
  • an issue before the voters in connection with the election.

b) May approve publication of material which only contains information about:

  • the election process itself; or
  • Council information that does not include any reference to a current Councillor otherwise precluded by this policy.

Council agendas and reports

The Council agenda, reports and minutes do not require CEO certification. No major policy decisions are permitted under s.93A of the Act.

Annual Report

Council is required to produce and place on public display its annual report. The 2015/16 report will be published during the Election Period and as such will not include information about individual Councillors which may be regarded as electioneering.

The annual report does not require CEO certification, however any publication of an extract or summary of the Annual Report will require certification.

Social Media

Any publication on social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and blogs during the election period must be certified by the CEO. At the commencement of the election period, Council will advise social media subscribers that comments containing electoral matter will be deleted.

Staff responsible for administering individual social media sites will monitor their respective sites during the election period and use moderation features where available to ensure no electoral matter is posted.

Media Releases & Advice

Council’s Communication team undertake the promotion of Council activities and initiatives.

During the election period this team’s services must not be used in any way that might promote a Councillor as an election candidate.

Media releases will not refer to specific Councillors during Election Period. Where a spokesperson is required, the CEO or delegate will determine the appropriate person.

Councillors will not use their position as an elected representative or their access to Council staff and other Council resources to gain media attention in support of an election campaign.

Any requests for media advice or assistance from Councillors during the election period will be channelled through the CEO or the Director Corporate Services. No media advice or assistance will be provided in relation to election issues or in regard to publicity that involves specific Councillors.

During the election period no Council employee will make public statements or discuss with the media items which relate to an election issue unless approval has been obtained from the CEO.

Public Consultation

Council will avoid public consultations during the Election Period, and will not undertake public consultation on a contentious topic which is subject to election matter.

Where a public consultation is deemed necessary and approved by the CEO, results of such consultation will not be reported to Council until after the election.

Public consultation includes but is not limited to:

  • Community forums
  • Focus groups
  • Postal or electronic surveys
  • Web polls
  • Social media forums

This clause does not apply to public consultation required under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 or matters subject to s.223 of the Local Government Act 1989.

Attendance at functions and events

During the election period, current Councillors may continue to attend functions and events.

Council run events will be scheduled to ensure only those essential to the operations of Council are run during the Election Period.

No election material or active campaigning is to be conducted at Council sponsored events or displayed in/on any Council building.

The Councillor Support Officer will continue to prepare speeches for the Mayor ’s official functions – such speeches will not be available for distribution or publishing. During the election period the Mayor will not delegate to other councillors any responsibility to represent him or her.

Council Resources

Council resources, including offices, mobile phones, IT equipment, vehicles, staff, hospitality, services, property, equipment and stationery must be used exclusively for normal Council business during the election period and must not be used in connection with any election campaign or issue.

Council branding

Council’s logo, letterhead, official photographs or events or social media brand must not be used or linked to a candidate’s electoral campaign.

Reimbursement of expenses

Reimbursement of Councillor’s out-of-pocket expenses will continue in line with the Councillors Support & Reimbursement Policy, and as such will only apply to costs that have been incurred in the performance of normal Council duties, and not for expenses that support or are connected with a candidate’s election campaigning.

Information

Candidate’s access to information

All election candidates have equal rights to access public information relevant to their election campaigns. Neither Councillors nor candidates will be provided information or advice from staff which might be perceived to support election campaigns. At all times there will be transparency maintained regarding the provision of all information and advice during the Election Period.

Whilst it is important that continuing Councillors receive information necessary to fulfil their elected roles, information or briefing material prepared or coordinated by staff will not be provided to a Councillor if related to an election issue.

Information Request Register

Governance will maintain an Information Request Register during the election period. This Register will be a public document recording all requests relating to electoral matters and non-routine requests for information by a Councillor or candidate, and the response provided to those requests.

Candidate’s Assistance

Candidates will be provided with a Councillor Candidate Information Kit to assist them in running and nominating for Council.

Council will run or facilitate information sessions prior to the elections, highlighting to candidates the roles and responsibilities of being a Councillor.

Improper Use of Position

Sections 76D and 76E of the Act prohibit Councillors from misusing or inappropriately making use of their position. A breach of section 76D attracts serious penalties, including possible imprisonment.

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

This policy will cease to exist at the end of the Election Period 2016.

Breaches

Breaches under this policy will be subject to the Councillor Code of Conduct and provisions of the Act, as specified in the following attachments.

Disclaimer

Council policy documents change from time to time and it is recommended that you consult the electronic reference copy at www.casey.vic.gov.au/policiesstrategies to ensure that you have the current version. Alternatively you may contact Customer Service on 9705 5200.

 

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