4 November, 2023
Evidence lacking in Councillor complaint
TABLELANDS Councillor David Clifton will not have to defend himself in relation to an official complaint made by Mayor Rod Marti about his conduct after an investigation found there was insufficient evidence to sustain the allegation.
At its September meeting, the matter was listed as a closed session item but Cr Peter Hodge moved to bring it into open session to allow the public to hear what occurred.
“I believe it should be in open session so the general public understands what goes on, what may go on and what the process is. If anyone wants to be a councillor, they need to understand what you're up against,” he told the meeting.
Mayor Rod Marti attempted to keep the matter in closed session but was out voted by the remaining councillors.
He declared a conflict of interest in the matter at the beginning of the meeting as did Community and Corporate Services general manager Hilary Jackson and Infrastructure and Environment Services general manager Mark Vis who were both listed as witnesses in the complaint. They all left the room as well as Cr Clifton while the agenda item was discussed and voted on.
The complaint lodged by Mayor Marti in May alleged that Cr Clifton had, on various dates, sent emails to Tablelands Regional Council staff, in which he used language and tone that could constitute inappropriate conduct under the Local Government Act.
Chief executive officer Gary Rinehart outlined what the process had been in dealing with the complaint which had originally been referred to the Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA) - a government body that assesses complaints made about individual councillors.
Mr Rinehart said the OIA had “considered some matters, dismissed some matters and referred some matters back to council for consideration”.
“These matters are ordinarily considered by the Mayor assisted by officers and an independent investigator,” he said.
“In this case, because the Mayor was the complainant, the matters were referred to the Councillor Conduct Tribunal to conduct the investigation and provide a report to council.
“That investigation has determined that there is insufficient evidence to sustain inappropriate conduct on the councillor’s part and the recommendation is that the allegations of inappropriate conduct were not substantiated and that council take no further action.”
Describing the issue as a “low point in our term that I hope doesn't happen again, Cr Hodge defended Cr Clifton, saying he had “walked a straight line”.
“I have to be very careful in what I say, but I believe that Cr Clifton walked a straight line – he is straightforward in what he says and sometimes, people might think it’s inappropriate,” he said.
“He doesn’t beat around the bush, he tells it as he sees it and calls it as he sees it.
“I think he walked the line here – I don’t have a problem with it.”
Mr Rinehart made a point of advising councillors that the complaint was not dismissed, it was “just that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to sustain the allegation”.