Code of Conduct breached

Aformal investigation into eight complaints made against Grant District Mayor Richard Sage has revealed he has breached council’s Code of Conduct.

The behaviour of Mayor Sage has been under scrutiny with findings revealed at council’s ordinary meeting held on Monday night.

As a result of further discussion at the meeting, council will submit an application to escalate the matter to the Ombudsman.

The investigation was undertaken by the Local Government Governance Panel where Mayor Sage was found to be in breach of the code on four of the complaints.

Four other complaints were tabled at the meeting with findings worded differently to suggest Mayor Sage was not in breach of the code and were dismissed.

At the recommendation of the panel, an apology from Mayor Sage to the council will be forthcoming.

Mayor Sage declared a conflict of interest and removed himself from the council chamber while discussion took place.

In the absence of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor Gill Clayfield, council appointed Councillor Bruce Bain to chair the meeting.

In addition, Mayor Sage will also be required to apologise to Councillors Shirley Little and Gill Clayfield, as well as Cr Little’s family.

Speaking to the motion Cr Little moved the matter be taken to the Ombudsman.

“The recommendation council censure Mayor Sage in respect of the breaches found and require the Mayor to apologise for his conduct, it’s as if it’s like it’s to be all forgotten,” Cr Little said.

“I’m involved in this. It was not my doing. It’s been in my house, in my mind and with my family for nine months.

“I would like it to go the Ombudsman. It needs to be done and done properly.”

In support of Cr Little, Cr Barry Kuhl said he was disappointed Mayor Sage did not personally apologise to Cr Little and her family.

“That’s what council wanted right from the start,” he said.

Cr Brad Mann said he agreed Mayor Sage should apologise, however expressed the matter should be addressed and handled internally.

Meanwhile, a matter discussed in confidence related to the Local Government Association’s (LGA) consultation on ‘Elected Member Training Standard and Behavioural Management Framework’.

As part of significant local government reforms, the government is introducing a new conduct management framework for council members that will set clearer rules for behaviour and provide better tools to resolve repeated and serious misbehaviour.

The new framework is proposed to start in November 2022, to coincide with a new term of council starting after this year’s elections.

New statewide standards of expected behaviour and values, known as Behavioural Standards, will be introduced and replace the current code of conduct for council members.

To implement the framework, each council must have a Behavioural Management Policy detailing how they will manage compliance with the Behavioural Standards and the procedures for lodging, assessing, investigating and dealing with complaints.

Governance officer Brittany Shelton said there had been criticism of the Behaviour Management Framework.

“There is no real power to implement any punitive outcome,” Ms Shelton said.

“It is definitely a restorative system. Some of those newer powers, where harsher penalties may be imposed will come in with the new council.”

Mayor Sage could not be reached for comment.

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