We wouldn't want to work for these councillors either

"The general manager of Blayney Shire Council, Aaron Jones, has quit suddenly in the middle of a stoush between councillors and the union over staff treatment."

So began an article in today's Sydney Morning Herald by their esteemed local government editor Harvey Grennan. (View complete article here)

We reported on the bans imposed by depa members in May and the dispute has gone from bad to worse.

After the Council meeting where the Deputy Mayor behaved badly, the general manager advised staff that he would be referring the behaviour for investigation by the Council’s external Review Panel. But actually getting the general manager to do that became more complicated than it should have.

Referred to a "Sole Reviewer" from their panel, there has been confusion about whether it was a referral by the general manager of unacceptable behaviour for their investigation, a complaint by the employee the subject of the attack by the Deputy Mayor or a complaint by depa. Apparently there was some concern that the Code of Conduct required a complaint to be "in writing" and a reluctance by the general manager to be the complainant. We think a complaint can be made by the general manager as a result of receiving complaints from staff and we have already raised this with the DLG as part of a review of the Model Code of Conduct - just to accommodate the general managers anxious not to upset councillors.

The referral of the investigation/complaint was sufficient for members to resolve to withdraw the broad part of the ban which involved services to meetings of the Council at which Councillor Radburn may participate.

At the next meeting of the Council on 13 June, rather than adopt the draft minutes prepared by staff, two councillors amended them by inserting words that certain things had occurred at the meeting in this incident which had not occurred. The seconder of the motion was the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Radburn. The motion to adopt the minutes in that form was carried and now the minutes of the meeting record something that did not occur.

History has been rewritten and the general manager announced his resignation on 28 June and left the following day.

A rescission motion has been filed by a minority of the councillors, we made a complaint to the DLG about the tampering with the public record and the DLG has applied pressure to ensure that at the next meeting on 11 July the inaccurate minutes are rescinded. We will see.

But the misrepresentation of the history has meant that our bans are back in full. Not only is there a ban on Councillor Radburn getting anything at all from our members but there is also a ban on providing anything to meetings of the Council in which Cllr Radburn participates. That means that when the deadline for the business paper for the next meeting closed last week, there was nothing supplied from Environmental Services.

Usually, when employees put a ban on services, it is the Council which files a dispute - dragging the union kicking and screaming into the Commission to have the ban lifted. But not so at Blayney where they listened to advice that there seemed little value putting the dispute in the Commission because it was likely the Commission would end up giving the Council kicking.

So depa filed a dispute and it is listed before Commissioner Richie in the Commission in Sydney tomorrow.

depa has always thought it important to pursue the important principles about the protection of staff and pulling up councillors about bad behaviour which breaches codes of meeting practice, codes of conduct and councils’ general obligations arising from their duty of care.

It's a truism to say that while there is wide support for action across the industry, everyone hopes it doesn't need to happen at their Council!

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