Newcastle Greens Councillor Michael Osborne today called on other Newcastle councillors to use the current deferral of the Code of Conduct report concerning Lord Mayor John Tate to come to a properly measured response to the matter.
Councillor Osborne said that he agreed with the finding of the conduct review report on the Lord Mayor that he had breached the council’s Code of Conduct, and with its recommended censure against him.
“I would have supported this outcome if the General Manager had not circulated a memo (based on legal advice) just before the council meeting, recommending that the matter be deferred pending clarification of some aspects of the conduct reviewer’s report,” Councillor Osborne said.
“As things currently stand, I don’t accept the Lord Mayor’s argument in defence of his actions, in terms of his failure to disclose relevant details of his conflicts of interests and to properly manage these conflicts, and I would urge Councillor Tate to accept the conclusions of the report and to take steps to ensure that this doesn’t happen in the future.
“It’s a serious matter, and a council censure – which is the most serious sanction a council can apply in such matters – is an appropriately weighted response in the circumstances.
“However, I think it’s also crucially important that councillors don’t turn Code of Conduct findings and sanctions into an excuse for a political lynch-mob, or as a form of political payback for perceived wrongs that have nothing to do with the conduct that is the subject of the report.
“Whilst the report’s censure recommendation is appropriate, the Labor/Buman push to strip the Lord Mayor of his delegations, and to refer the matter to the Director-General of the Division of Local Government go way beyond the conduct reviewer’s recommendations, and may end up bringing the council and the Code of Conduct processes into further disrepute.
“None of the advocates of these extra punitive measures were able to explain or justify them at last night’s council meeting.
“The current facts of the case do not fit the grounds outlined in the Local Government Act (section 440I) for referral to the Director-General to initiate suspension proceedings, and there is no apparent link between Councillor Tate’s actions in this matter and his exercise of council delegations.
“Much of Councillor Buman’s contribution to last night’s debate was based on personal gripes he has with the Lord Mayor that have nothing to do with this Code of Conduct matter.
“Basing a detrimental decision and imposing extra punitive action on the Lord Mayor on such irrelevant grounds might actually expose such a decision to the risk of legal challenge.
“All Newcastle councillors should now use the deferral period to consider this matter carefully, and come to a properly measured response that would stand up to both public and legal scrutiny,” Councillor Osborne said.