Councillor censured for Code of Conduct violations

Councillor censured for Code of Conduct violations

A Tenterfield councillor was officially censured at Wednesday's council meeting over comments he made during two council meetings last year, each counting as a breach, regarding the Angry Bull Mountain Bike Trails project and one of its directors.

Cr Brian Murray was censured for misconduct under the NSW Local Government Act for five breaches of council's code of conduct in all. The independent investigation's outcomes and recommendations from O'Connor Marsden & Associates to council were detailed in the meeting's business papers.

The other three allegations involved making a false complaint to council's then-CEO Terry Dodds about the misconduct of another councillor; dishonestly misleading the person charged with investigating the breaches; and passing confidential information obtained in his position as councillor onto a member of the public.

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Confidentiality was the bone of contention at Wednesday's meeting with Cr Murray and fellow councillors Bob Rogan and Don Forbes wanting at least discussion of the agenda item moved to the 'confidential' section.

Cr Forbes pointed out that a similar incident back in 2015 was treated in this manner. He was informed by council's Customer Service, Governance & Records manager Erika Bursford that, although the matters pertaining to Cr Murray happened during the previous version of the code which allowed such reports to be presented in the confidential section of a meeting, the code had since been revised.

Findings and determinations of an investigation report are now to be made public, on the advice of the Office of Local Government.

There is also legal precedence -- as recently as September last year -- that final investigation reports can be released under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009, subject to the redaction of the name of the complainant as has been done in this case.

Ultimately there was no discussion ahead of councillors Peter Petty, Greg Sauer, Bronwyn Petrie, John Macnish, Tom Peters and Gary Verri endorsing the censure.

Crs Murray, Michael Petrie, Don Forbes and Bob Rogan voted against accepting the report.

Council engaged O'Connor Marsden & Associates to undertake an independent investigation of the alleged violations at a cost of $41,280.42, an 'unforecasted expense' in this financial year's legal budget.