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Message from the Chief Municipal Inspector

As we enter the second phase of the four year council term, my office is noting a rise in thematic complaints, particularly in respect to the interaction between councillors and council staff and the use of council resources and expenses. In many cases, the complaints concern councils that do not have adequate policies or guidelines in place to set the √ęground rules√≠ for operational interaction, or councils that have policies and guidelines in place but have tolerated inconsistent application.

Both scenarios create frustrations for councillors who, in most cases, are genuinely seeking information or advice. However, this can be quite unsettling for staff in terms of the balance of power and what they are being asked to do or provide.

In this edition of integrity matters, we identify a recent investigation where an allegation of misuse of position was substantiated in relation to the interaction between a councillor and staff member but also identified a clear gap in the organisational policy and codes of conduct to set out the process for the councillor to raise an operational issue. This case highlighted the importance of eground rules to protect councilliors against allegations of improper direction and to assist staff in the provision of service to the elected council.

As part of our recommendations to council in the above case and our broader objective of encouraging higher standards, we are sharing examples of good practice or policies and guidelines observed in our work across the state. In this edition we note the work of Wyndham City Council towards developing and updating their policy on councillor and staff interaction and also the work of Hobsons Bay Council related to council governance schedules. Thank you to both councils for sharing these examples.

David Wolf
Chief Municipal Inspector