Transparency vs Confidentiality - a tale of two cities

It’s one thing to be disappointed about Sutherland when the curtains were pulled, the blinds were drawn and the screen of confidentiality was erected by the CEO so that no one knew anything about what was going on, what complaints had been made and by whom (not even in the IRC) when there was already a transparent and quick solution available, but what do other councils do?

In May a member of ours was abused on the Facebook page of the Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser by a councillor. No stranger to Code of Conduct complaints, which he regarded as a badge of honour, but at Wagga Wagga a proactive GM, supportive of the staff and good governance acted immediately to have the councillor delete the posting and then, after complaints from depa, the employee concerned and others, to immediately contract a conduct reviewer to conduct the Code of Conduct investigation.

The Code itself requires a degree of confidentiality about investigations to ensure an investigator can have confidence that there has not been collusion between witnesses but at Wagga Wagga we were not only advised by the GM that the investigation process had begun, but were contacted in writing by the conduct reviewer who kept us advised of the process, within those confidential guidelines, so that we knew it was being properly managed and the complaint would not simply disappear or be ignored.

And when it was concluded, we received a letter from the conduct reviewer identifying the recommendations, which included a censure of the councillor and reference of the complaint to the Office of Local Government, so we understood the process had been conducted and its result. The councillor was censured by the Council consistent with the recommendation of the conduct reviewer and the entire complaint has been forwarded to the Office of Local Government for further action.

Wow, what a significantly different approach to Sutherland - one where employees can be comfortable and confident about the process because of the transparency. Confidentiality is important in an investigation but the Code of Conduct should not be managed by a Council behind closed doors. Not at Wagga Wagga do they do the “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”, thing.

There is more confidence in a process that is transparent.

If you Google transparent versus confidential you’ll see much information about the delicate line between the two and where it should be drawn. Confidentiality is not meant to be an excuse to hide the process.

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