Bans lifted at Blayney and DLG watches the councillors behaving badly

There has been a lot of action at Blayney since 10 May when depa wrote to the General Manager demanding an apology from both the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor. From the Mayor, because he allowed bad behaviour at a Council meeting, and from the Deputy Mayor because he behaved badly - breaches of the Code of Conduct and the Council’s own Code of Meeting Practice aplenty.

Unhappy about the lack of application and progress by the General Manager, and a failure to return our phone call or we would make a complaint to the Division of Local Government, we made a complaint - asking the Division to deal in particular with the misrepresentation recorded within the minutes of the June meeting of the Council. As an aside, it turns out that the General Manager failed to comply with our deadline because he was in a meeting with the Mayor tendering his resignation! Apology accepted.

Despite an agreement by the three directors that none of them would be prepared to act as Acting GM, one did but he continued to exhibit the reluctance exhibited by the exiting GM to take the councillors on and to process the Code of Conduct complaint made by depa.

All this became too much and we filed a dispute which was listed before Commissioner Ritchie in the Commission on 6 July. By this stage the bans had been in place for six weeks and no one much at the Council seemed too interested in having them lifted. The bans were on any services at all to Councillor Radburn the Deputy Mayor but also to any meeting at which Councillor Radburn may be present and involved in discussions. This included a refusal to supply anything from the Environmental Services Division for the July business paper.

We went into the compulsory conference with Commissioner Ritchie with a prepared statement that had been negotiated with the Acting GM over the phone the day before. He was happy with its content, we were going to ask the Commission to issue it as a formal Statement and Recommendation and the only proviso was that the Shires Association would review it for any fine tuning. Having spoken to the Shires Association, we thought we had it under control.

But five minutes before the compulsory conference we were handed a copy of what we had understood to be the agreed statement, with amendments to 70% of the document - all primarily aimed at removing any acknowledgement of wrongdoing or guilt by either the exiting General Manager or any of the Councillors. Nice.

This is not a usual practice in an industrial dispute where there is a substantial agreement prior to proceedings in the Commission. If you want to see how overwhelming were the changes being sought by the Council to protect the underperformers and the guilty, click here. They wanted everything removed from the draft agreement that is crossed out with a pen.

It fell to Commissioner Ritchie to make sense of how there could be a substantially agreed document one day and then the following day, substantial disagreement.  We had trouble believing it too and put it down to bad advice after the agreement was reached from both the Shires Association and locally.

The following day the Commission issued a statement recommending that the Council expedite the Code of Conduct complaint and that depa lift the bans.  The Statement also noted the observation made by Deputy President Grayson in August last year in the Wagga Wagga dispute:

"It is, of course, trite to observe, but nonetheless again in the context of these observations, entirely appropriate to observe, that Council bears various obligations to its employees, including but not limited to the significant obligation of duty of care to protect employees against damage to their personal and professional reputation."

The investigation has been expedited. We did that ourselves the day of the compulsory conference, sick of the clumsy fumbling by the Council that had seen confusion over who had actually made the complaint and tardiness by the external Reviewer to acknowledge a correction by the GM that the complaint was actually made by depa and not by an employee. Sometimes you just have to do things yourself.

Members met the morning of 12 July and lifted the bans. This coincided with a special meeting of the Council to consider a rescission motion moved by three councillors over the fraudulent minutes which misrepresented what actually happened at the Council meeting at the time of the walkout. At least there was a minority of the councillors who knew it was a cover-up.

Under the watchful eye of a Senior Investigator from the Division of Local Government (responding to the complaint we had made to the Division about this developing fiasco), the Council resolved to revert to the original draft prepared for them by staff before it was amended by the motion of those who wanted to change history.

The Mayor explained to a packed gallery (because this is big news at Blayney) that the fraudulent minutes they had voted for, misrepresenting what actually had happened, were nothing more than a” procedural error”.

As if.

The Division’s Senior Investigator also spent time with the Mayor explaining how things worked in local government and at the same time the three directors of the Council with our local delegate Greg Prince were drafting a policy document on the Council’s duty of care to be considered at a special meeting this Thursday. It will go to the Council meeting as a recommendation by the three Directors and with the support of the freshly appointed Acting General Manager.

Watch this space.

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