The Ultimate Council Conflict of Interest. The role of Councillor itself.

Cr Don Palmer. Providing Local Leadership and Working For YiuWe hear much these days of conflict of interest. I have written about it. The media often have a feature on it. But what is the ultimate conflict of interest.

 

Following on from my blog post yesterday questioning who am I let us examine the role of an elected member. Not so much therefore, who am I but, what is my role in Council.

 

The fact is the conflict of responsibilities of your elected members is the ultimate conflict of interest.

 

The Local Government Act defines two clear, but conflicting roles.

The first of these is to be a member of the governing body of Council. The second is to represent the interests of residents and rate payers.

A conflict of roles if ever there was one.

 

 

Being a member of the governing body is alike to being a member of a company board of directors.

 

Being a member of a board of directors requires me to attend regular “director’s” meetings and participate in the deliberations of the council. As part of this role, I have the responsibility to keep the council’s objectives and policies under review. To ensure that they are appropriate and effective.

Importantly, I am also responsible to manage the council’s income and expenditure. This means keeping the efficiency and effectiveness of its service delivery under review.

This responsibility is only in concert with my fellow councillors. I cannot act alone. Neither can a small subgroup act alone.

Contrary to this responsibility however is my second defined role.

 

As a person elected to the council I must represent the interests of residents and ratepayers. I am required to provide community leadership and guidance. I must facilitate communication between the community and the council.

This means I must represent you and advocate for you to the Council.

This is a role many in the community do not understand. A role they don’t take advantage of.

As conflicting as these roles may sound they are also mutually complementary.

 

In order to represent you and advocate for you I must do so for all. For that to happen I must be conscious of the greater good. The good of our whole community.

So, even if what you seek advocacy for conflicts with your neighbours, I must seek to give you the best possible chance to be heard.

And that I will continue to strive to do.

Who Am I? Ever Played that Game. Sometimes I feel I am playing it now.

Have you ever played the game who am I. It has always been a fun game.

 

Cr Don Palmer. Providing Local Leadership and Working For YiuRemember putting a notice on your head and asking people yes/no questions and trying to whittle down to find out who you are. A game I remember playing as a kid. It was a game too, I recall, being the focus of a TV game a few decades back.

A similar game too, I recall being played on talk back radio. Always fun. Always entertaining.

.

I found myself playing that game this week with one on my rate payers. A rate payer who did not understand my role. I therefore found myself trying to explain my role rather than focus on her concerns. This conversation naturally prompted me to consider writing this blog post.

Another Councillor explained to me this morning that she too has had a similar recent experience. This of course has convinced me of the need to put pen to paper.

In both cases the person with whom we were engaging believed we were employees of Council. This is NOT the case.

 

Who am I then? I am an elected member. An elected member of your Council.

 

Importantly, I am not an employee of Council. I am not a manager. Nor do I contract with Council.

I am an elected member, a Councillor. Elected by you last November as your representative on Council. Elected to be one of thirteen Councillors (including your Mayor) forming the City of Unley Council.

The next question is what is my responsibility and what did you elect me to do. For the answer to that question I ask you to watch out for a follow-up blog post.

A council, in turn, is established to provide for government and management of its area at the local level. Watch out for future blog posts on this too.

New look for Councils runs deeper than you might think

Most of us recognise that there is a new look for Councils. It runs very much deeper however than is being recognised.

Yes. As my last blog post undoubtedly shows, the new City of Unley will consist of 8 women and 5 men represents this new look for Councils. We all know this is a gender turnaround of significance. It redresses a historic gender imbalance.

This is a trend across local government. Complimenting this trend we see also many Mayoral positions now occupied by women.

There is no doubt that this will changes the dynamic of Council.

A more significant dynamic, as yet not recognised, is the spread of ages on this new Council. This Council has representatives, by my judgement, in each age decade from under 30’s to over 80’s.

This to me is a much bigger shift than the gender shift. The previous council had but two members under the age I suggest of 50.

The contribution to any debate is going to be much fuller than it has been in the two terms of Council I have been a member of. As my co-councillor has oft said the last Council could be describes as a grey haired, retired, gentleman’s club. That is a far cry from this new Council.

Cross gender input will provide depth to the debate. Cross generational input will provide even greater depth. A clear new look for Councils, at least this one as I predicted in my blog post of October 9.

Further than this the age demographic shows up yet another dynamic.

This Council and possibly the next Council history may show as transitional Councils. Councils leading to a generational change.

The final observation I believe with this Council is that those of us remaining from the previous Council/s have a significant obligation. It will be incumbent on us to provide leadership in helping the new members to develop into the Unley Communities next generation of leaders.

Your Clarence Park Ward Councillors provide this.

The public face of Council has changed.

With the resignation of our Mayor and my stint as Deputy Mayor ending, the public face of Council has changed.

Last night Council appointed Cr Peter Hughes (Fullarton Ward) as our Acting Mayor. We also appointed Cr Michael Hewitson as Deputy Mayor. Their appointments will see us through to the elections in November this year. This is when you get to decide who will be your Mayor and your two Local Councillors for the next 4 years.

Peter will be the public face of Council for the next ten months. Michael will deputise in Peter’s absence. This is as was the case in the last twelve months with me deputising for Lachlan Clyne,

I wish both well.

Exacerbating this changing face of Council, Cr John Koumi announced during last night’s Council meeting that he too was resigning effective the end of this month. John’s focus has shifted in recent times with the purchase of a farm in the Adelaide Hills.

On my part my bid was unsuccessful. I am now simply again your local Ward Councillor.

This allows me to sit back a little now. Once again I can direct my focus on the rate payers of my Ward. I will also now have a greater influence in the Council Chamber, debating issues relevant to the Clarence Park Ward.

The Deputy Mayor role spreads your focus. I found myself being called into assisting with the concerns of ratepayers across the City of Unley. Responding to ratepayer concerns will largely be limited back to the Clarence Park Ward.

When replacing the Mayor at meetings the focus is in ensuring the proper flow of business and the conduct of the meeting. It was challenging when a Clarence Park Ward issue (or an issue I in which I have an interest) was discussed in the chamber.

Lachlan Clyne finally resigning as Mayor of the City of Unley

It’s Official. Lachlan Clyne is finally resigning as Mayor of the City of Unley, effective at the end of this month.

 

As most of us are aware, he is the Liberal Candidate for the seat of Badcoe in the upcoming State Election. In resigning as Mayor he can now focus all his energies on getting elected.

This has been the worst kept secret in Unley for some time now. Many amongst us believed he had already resigned. This is not the case. He was only on leave between September and November. During this time, I deputised (as Deputy Mayor) for him at Council meetings. We shared civic duties.

He returned to his Mayoral duties in December chairing the December meeting. He will chair the upcoming January meeting. Again, we shared the civic duties.

I would like, on behalf of our Community, to thank Lachlan for his service to The City of Unley. We wish you well, in whatever the future holds for you.

This Council can be proud of what it has achieved during Lachlan’s time as Mayor.

Following on from the establishment of the previous Council’s 2033 Community Plan we painstakingly master planned the various components of the plan. We have, and certainly in the more recent of times, implemented many of the plan’s initiatives.

He will be missed by many in the community of Unley.

As regular readers of this blog would know, I announced in my blog on November 27 that I have put my hand up to become our Acting Mayor in his absence.

I do so to avoid confusion for the many in our community who believed that Lachlan had already resigned as Mayor and I had taken over. I believe it is in everyone’s best interest that we present a picture of continuity and stability of community leadership.

Should we repeal the code of conduct for council members.

The code of conduct for council members is not working many believe. Scrap it some say. We should repeal the code of conduct for council members.

I agree we do need to remove the opportunity for frivolous or vexatious claims to divert us from more important issues. We also need to strengthen the Code to deal with the more serious offending. My final statement in my last blog was the system needs an overhaul.

There is evidence that members have used the Code to bully their colleagues. There is also evidence of persons outside of Council using the Code to make false and misleading claims.

Investigating claims requires significant resources and funding. Resources that are better put to building our community in the case of such claims.

The Premier recently announced an intention to repeal the code of conduct for council members, possibly because of this.

There is another side to this argument. The actions of a handful of elected members are so grave there remains a need for a system to deal with it.

So, while there is angst concerning the frivolous, the Local Government Association (LGA) is advocating for tougher measures in the Act. In other words, they are advocating for the existing code to be improved and strengthened.

A stronger code of conduct with increased penalties for breaches will provide councils with better tools to address serious – albeit isolated – behavioural issues as they arise. The ability to bring to account those that bring our industry into disrepute. At the same time an opportunity for minor behavioural breaches not to be used to bring us into disrepute.

In this background the Premier has announced he is putting off his plans to repeal it. Presumably he is waiting on talks with the LGA.

We should repeal the code of conduct for council members.

In Government Liberals Demand Council Travel Transparency

The Liberals Demand Council Travel Transparency if they win Government in March.

Travel-Allowance

They will make it mandatory for all South Australian councils to publish travel expenses in their annual report to increase transparency and accountability. They will Demand Council travel transparency.

Seems their answer to the State’s woes rest with fixing Local Government.

You get no argument from me regarding transparency. I demand Council transparency too.

All Governments should be transparent in all they do. It is important that those who have the responsibility of spending rate payer (or taxpayer) funds be subject to public scrutiny.

My colleagues here in the City of Unley concur with the principle. Cr Bob Schnell and Cr Mike Hudson have both welcomed the move as can be seen on their blogs. My Co-councillor Jennie Boisvert has likewise responded. Bob & Jennie have questioned them however.

 

It sounds like we have no such obligation now. Wrong!

Section 79 of the Local Government Act 1999 already requires the Council’s CEO to keep a register of all allowances and expenses paid to their elected members. Section 7 of the Local Government (Members Allowances and Benefits) Regulations 2010 then goes on to say that this is required on a quarterly basis.

Unley’s own David Pisoni said a check of 19 metropolitan councils showed just one disclosed travel undertaken by elected members. I wonder which Council he is referring to.

He can’t be talking about the councils of 6 Mayors I talked to yesterday. We all do. This group of Mayors are of the belief the Liberals see fixing Local Government as their priority in Government, rather than the workings of State Parliament. Hmmmm!

This may be why we keep hearing that the public, in a background where they hate the government and see Mr X as looking to fix Parliament, see them as irrelevant.

I have Joined the Unley Actors Guild

Our Mayor has gone on leave. In his absence I have joined what I have affectionately called the Unley Actors Guild. In other words, as Deputy Mayor, I have now become Acting Mayor.

In my 7 years at Council I have oft observed the following procedure.

  • A member of our Administration sends me an email;
  • I respond immediately to this email;
  • My email attracts a prepared response to say that member of Administration is on leave and if my matter is urgent contact “x”;
  • In contacting “x” I find he or she is wearing the “Acting Manager of this or that tag”.

This I was unfamiliar with until joining Council. In private enterprise and more appropriately in an SME I simply never experienced anyone wearing an “acting title”.

Little did I realise that one day I would join this club, courtesy of the Mayor’s decision to run for the Seat of Badcoe.

Mayor Lachlan Clyne, not that he has to unless and until elected to the seat of Badcoe, has decided he will resign as Mayor in January. The timing of his decisions, both to go on leave and to resign, is to avoid Unley having to fund a bi-election for Mayor in the lead up to our own election. If he were to resign in 2017 now we would be forced to have a bi-election.

In his absence I (as Deputy Mayor this year) will join the Unley Actors Guild and take his place. I will have this role until sometime in January.

Once he has resigned, Council will hold an internal election. We will elect from within our number both an Acting Mayor and a Deputy Mayor to see out the tenure of the current Council. Our elections are due also next year, in November.

Signing Off: Deputy (Acting) Mayor.

Member of the Unley Actors Guild

 

 

The question on everyone’s lips is, Is the Mayor going to resign

I have been asked often recently is the Mayor going to resign? This refers to his Liberal preselection to the State seat of Badcoe I reported on Saturday. So! Is the Mayor going to resign?

This morning the Mayor has answered that question. He has advised his intentions to both members of Council and to the Executive.

First up, the Local Government Act provides for this.

Clause 54 (1) (e). A member of council must resign when that member becomes a member of an Australian Parliament. It does not require this if he or she is campaigning to become a member.

Clause 54 (8) deals with a casual vacancy that exists in the Office of Mayor on or after January 1 on a year in which a periodic election is due. It indicates a member chosen by Council may act in the office of Mayor until the conclusion of the election. The next periodic election for Council is November next year.

If the Mayor were to resign prior to January 1 next year the ratepayers of the City of Unley would have to fund a by-election. Not so if he resigns after that time.

Beyond this should the Mayor take a leave of absence the Deputy Mayor will become Acting Mayor during that absence. Under the Act any elected member can take a leave of absence for up to 3 consecutive regular council meetings without the approval of Council.

Lachlan has indicated his intentions to us.

That all said, our Mayor has advised that it is his intention to take a leave of absence in October this year. He then intends to resign as Mayor in January of next year. This is pretty much in line with the provisions noted above.

In his letter to us he believes a Councillor as Acting Mayor from January will provide the greatest stability in leadership of the Unley community. He notes too it is also considerably less expensive than a general election. This he believes is his best option.
As the current Deputy Mayor I will therefore become Acting Mayor from October thru’ January. It means also that Council may elect from within our numbers an Acting Mayor. That position will occur from January through to the completion of the periodic election in November next year.

 

NEW 5 YEAR CONTRACT ANNOUNCED FOR PETER TSOKAS, CITY OF UNLEY CEO

This is a copy of a media release today from Council.

 

We are pleased to announce, that following Monday night’s August Council meeting, Peter Tsokas has accepted a new 5 year contract as the CEO of the City of Unley.

City of Unley Mayor Lachlan Clyne welcomed the good news.

 “Peter has now been Unley’s CEO for the four years since 2011” says Mayor Clyne “and he has been a very important contributor to shepherding the City of Unley into the safe and secure position it now finds itself in.”

“Whilst the return of all 11 Elected Members who re-nominated for their positions at the last election was a clear indication of the Unley community’s confidence in our direction,” he said, “the announcement of this decision offers incredible stability to our organisation and our community for these coming years”.

With this announcement Lachlan believes Unley is now very well placed to meet future challenges and can offer strong and respected leadership to the local community and the Local Government sector.

“Peter’s positive leadership and strategic vision will provide a strong platform for achieving our goals and meeting our community’s needs with confidence” Mayor Clyne concluded.   

 

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I concur with Lachlan’s comments. Peter has provided great leadership, not only reducing the operating budget by well in excess of $ 2.0m but creating a synergy within the administration that sees staff working together in harmony and respect.

He has a great vision for the future of the City of Unley.

From memory the vote taken on Monday night was unanimous.