Category Archives: Conduct and Ethics

Must read! Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making

Council Transparency

The Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making has been completed and the report publicly released.

I took the time to read through this report and found it very informative and interesting that it revealed some issues relating to Councils. Community members had reasonable concerns about transparency in their Councils and in fact there were many complaints  made to the Ombudsman.

“This investigation arose from a single complaint about a decision made in a closed council meeting – a practice that we found to be widespread across Victoria. Some complaints resonate as a theme: local councils continue to account for some 25 per cent of jurisdictional complaints to my office – more than 3,400 last year. People complaining to my office about council decisions periodically refer to the decision being made “in secret” or “behind closed doors” as evidence to support their concerns. I tabled the report into the original complaint in June 2016, but this has been a far wider investigation, looking at the transparency of decision-making within local government in Victoria.” Source: Deborah Glass Ombudsman.

As part of the investigation 79 Victorian councils were surveyed and 12  were selected to be examined in detail.  

The areas of focus were:

the closure of council meetings and special committee meetings to     the public

• the handling of confidential matters

• the nature and quality of audio and visual records of meetings and       the public’s ability to access records

• the scope and exercise of delegated council functions/powers and       administrative actions; and the reporting of these to council and           the public

• the nature and content of information discussed in ‘assemblies of         councillors’

Due to the findings, there were specific recommendations made in the report to be introduced or implemented. Here is a summary of   some of the recommendations or suggestions:

• relating to the Local Government Act, a requirement for more              detailed reasons in relation to the closure of meetings to be                    specified in the minutes and that embarrassment to, or potential          adverse criticism of, council are not reasons to close a meeting to        the public

implement a mandatory ‘Code of Councillor Conduct’ training               program       

• conflict of interest requirements to extend to advisory committee      members and to have an updated list of committees on a Council’s      website                               

• ensure that agendas are made available to public five days before a     council meeting

 public questions and answers to be recorded in minutes,  through       audio or audio-visual recording and publication, as well as posting       recorded open meetings to council websites

Did you know about section 15 Your right to freedom of expression’ under the Human Rights Charter?  

“People are free to say what they think and want to say. They have the right to find, receive and share information and ideas. In general, this right might be limited to respect the rights and reputation of other people, or for the protection of public safety and order.” Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission

How does this right play a role in Council? As stated in the report: 

“Councils also need to take care regarding restrictions on public question time. Unreasonable restrictions have the potential to be incompatible with not only the right to participate in public life, but the right to freedom of expression in section 15 of the Charter. For example, where councils require questions in writing prior to meetings, they should ensure there is appropriate assistance available to those who may have difficulty placing their question in writing. A number of councils mentioned they offered such assistance. Councils should also ensure that any restriction on the content of questions or submissions by members of the public at meetings which could be considered to limit their right to freedom of expression is appropriately balanced with any lawful restrictions reasonably necessary to respect the rights and reputation of other persons or national security, public order, public health or public morality.”

You will also find a summary of transparency in the report:
What does a transparent council look like?
What does a transparent council look like?
Page 150 -151 of the Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making report. Click to view!

Link to full report: Victorian Ombudsman: Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making

Related links: 

Local government transparency a postcode lottery: Victorian Ombudsman

Victorian public being shut out of local council meetings, ombudsman says

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass says councils must be more transparent over their decisions

Empowering Monash & YOU post – Transparency in Council 

Empowering Monash & YOU post – Feedback to Council: Streaming/recording of meetings

Comments are welcome!

HarikNG – Administrator and Contributer

Empowering Monash & YOU

Attention Update! ‘Hands on Head’ at Monash Council Meetings

Do you remember this post? Have you heard? Monash Council meetings just like a school class? | Empowering Monash & YOU

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Monash Council has introduced measures to improve the functioning of Council meetings. However many believe that Council meetings are now more like a school classroom. “If people behave like children and act in an unprofessional way, they can expect to be treated like children.  I make no apologies for that.  I was elected Mayor a few weeks ago to fix our dysfunctional meetings and I am determined to do that” stated Mayor Geoff Lake – Hands on heads improves Monash Council meeting. Councillors were required to place hands on their head if they wish to raise a point of order.

Now after spending $10,000 on his idea of a behaviour monitor and taping the meetings (which other Councillors were not allowed to assess) Mayor Geoff Lake wants to relax the  ‘Hands on head’ requirement!  

Snippets of Motion Document:

Cr Geoff Lake

“I proposed that these matters be raised by a councillor silently signalling their desire to raise a Point of Order or move a Procedural Motion. In the case of a Point of Order, this could be done by placing both hands on their head. In the case of a Procedural Motion, it was by placing one hand on their head. Although ‘novel’ and ridiculed by some, the adoption of these measures immediately improved the functioning of our meetings. Since the May meeting, we have barely had a single Point of Order and no disruptive Procedural Motion raised. Part of the reason for this improvement has been because the signalling process meant that it was immediately apparent what it is that a councillor is wishing to raise – i.e. a Point of Order or a Procedural Motion – and the mayor is placed in the position of being able to immediately and specifically engage the Councillor on the matter they are raising. These measures have succeeded in making Points of Order and Procedural Motions an exception rather than the norm they had previously become. As I said at the time of proposing these reforms, I am not concerned in the slightest if requiring someone to put their hands on their head does dis-incentivise a councillor from Council Meeting, 19 October 2016 Section 7.3 – Page 4 Mission Accomplished: time To Relax the ‘Hands On Heads’ Requirements moving these – as we were getting far too many of these interventions than was warranted or reasonable. Indeed we were getting more Points of Order and Procedural Motions raised at a single meeting than what was experienced across the entire previous four year Council term. I am pleased that since the May reforms, we are once again back to how things were in the previous term.” 

“I thank all councillors and attendees in the Public Gallery for contributing to the improvement of our meetings. Given this improvement being sustained over the past five months, I recommend to Council that we now relax the more contentious and onerous elements of the Supplementary Standing Orders (i.e. the ‘hands on head’ requirements) because the objectives of these measures have now been realised. With a new Council to take office from the November meeting onwards, it is appropriate in my view that it be given the chance to conduct its meetings in the professional and respectful way expected by our community without the need for these more extraordinary measures which were unfortunately necessary five months ago.” Source: Motion to relax ‘hands on head’ requirement.

But why is he adding the motion now? The requirement was not relaxed when community was  so against it?

Is it  really due to the excuse that behaviour has been improved or is it possible, due to the Monash Council elections and voting by the 21 October 2016? What do you think?  Leave your comments by clicking on the Leave a Comment button above.

 

Is your Preferred Candidate Committed to the Role of Councillor?

Victorians will vote for new municipal councils between today and October 22. The new councils will be elected for a four year term.

It’s appropriate to consider the commitment of the people who offer themselves as our representatives at the level of government closest to our community.

Since the start of this council term in November 2012 there have been two Federal and one Victorian election. Many seats in those elections have been contested by municipal councillors who had been elected on the presumption they would serve the local community for a four year term.

In the City of Monash, of 11 Councillor positions, the list looks like this:

2013 Federal Election 

Cr Geoff Lake (Glen Waverley ward) was preselected by the ALP for the seat of Hotham but returned to council after internal factional shenanigans kicked him out days before he would have been obliged to resign from council.

2014 State Election

Cr Steve Dimopoulos (Oakleigh ward), ALP, stood in the seat of Oakleigh. He was elected and resigned from council. Stefanie Perri, having been defeated as the ALP candidate for Box Hill was elected by countback to fill the vacancy.

Cr Theo Zographos (Oakleigh ward), Liberal, stood for Oakleigh and returned to council after defeat.

Cr Robert Davies (Mulgrave ward), Liberal, stood for Mulgrave and returned to council after defeat.

Cr Paul Klisaris (Mulgrave ward), ALP, unsuccessfully sought preselection for Prahran.

2016 Federal Election

Cr Stefanie Perri (Oakleigh ward), ALP, resigned from council while Mayor to stand in Chisholm. Defeated. Replaced on council by Nga Hosking after a countback.

Cr Paul Klisaris (Mulgrave ward ), ALP, resigned from council to stand in Aston. Defeated. Replaced by John Starkey on countback.

That’s six of our elected representatives using council as a political career stepping stone.  For State elections, a councillor is not required to resign, rather they take leave from close of nominations until declaration of the poll.  During that period, they are not representing the council ward by which they were elected.  Once nominations close in the Federal elections a councillor must resign thereby allowing the electoral commission to promptly conduct a countback election for a replacement councillor.

In this council term (running until October 2020) there is expected to be a Victorian State election in 2018 and a Federal election in 2019.  Which candidates standing for council are planning to quit their role, if elected, and stand for one of these elections?

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with a councillor being a member of a political party. This is only a problem when the membership combines with career ambitions incompatible with a commitment to serve residents and ratepayers.

When considering your vote this election it’s worth asking your prospective candidates about the duration of their commitment.

Monash Council Election in October – What you need to know!

Monash Council Election

The City of Monash Council Election will be held in October. It will be by postal vote and enrolled voters will receive their ballots via the mail in the first week of October.

What is in the ballot pack?

Council Elections Ballots
State of Victoria (Victorian Electoral Commission) – Easy English Guide
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Derivatives 4.0 licence
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/)

How to complete the ballot paper or vote?

After completing the sheet or adding your vote, then you will need to return it in the mail by 6.00 pm on Friday 21 October 2016, so please be aware it needs to be mailed by this date as voting closes on 21 October 2016. However you do have the option to hand-deliver it to the election office by this date. You can visit the Victorian Electoral Commission website for more information.

Click on Factsheets to enlarge and view! 

Council Election Ballots
State of Victoria (Victorian Electoral Commission) – Easy English Guide
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Derivatives 4.0 licence
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/)
Council Election Ballot
State of Victoria (Victorian Electoral Commission) – Easy English Guide
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Derivatives 4.0 licence
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monash Council Election Candidates and voting

You will find candidate statements in the ballot pack, which is a little information about each candidate before deciding who to vote for. Community members may be already aware who some of the candidates are, but it is very important to vote for a person who you think will do the best for you or the community.  Hence why it is important to get enough information about the candidates by visiting their websites, reading their flyers or contacting them and asking questions. The other option is to  make arrangements to meet them at a convenient time or at their launches and express your views or concerns.

You vote is important so vote wisely!
Monash Council Ballot Voting
State of Victoria (Victorian Electoral Commission) – Easy English Guide
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Derivatives 4.0 licence
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/)

If you interested in meeting some of them, there will be a ‘Meet the Candidates’ event on 6 October 2016 at the Mount Street Neighbourhood House. For further details, you can contact them by phone on 9803 8706 or through their website – MSNH Contact.

For more information regarding the Council Elections:

City of Monash Council Election – Voting 

Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC)

Easy English Guide – Victorian Electoral Commission Vote in Local Council Postal Elections

Reminder! Gayle Nicholas who is the founder member of Empowering Monash and YOU has suspended her role with EM&U while standing for Council.  Community members have contacted EM&U in regards to Gayle’s Campaign and would like to remind people that EM&U’s role does not involve election campaigns, so if you would like to contact Gayle Nicholas, details below.
Website: Glenwaverleyward.wordpress.com.au
Facebook Page Page: @Gayle4Monash 
Twitter: @GayleNicholas4M

Monash Council Meeting Agenda! Hot Issues – What to look for?

Monash Council Meeting

The Next City of  Monash Council Meeting will be held on Tuesday 30 August 2016 from 7.00pm. You will need to submit your questions by noon  today (Monday 29 August).

Hot issues to pay extra attention too!

Hot issues Empowering Monash and You

Development: Five residential apartment towers 6-10 storeys in height and 17 double-storey townhouses

79 objections were submitted by public members: “Key issues raised within objections relate to neighbourhood character, visual bulk, overshadowing, design detail, compliance with residential policy, car parking provision, increased traffic, overlooking and residential amenity.” Source – Monash Council Agenda, 30 August 2016.

The Council has recommended to refuse the proposal!

Monash Community Grants Program:  Report relating to the 2017/18  Grants Program (MCGP) and assessments of applications.

Due to the Public Health Approach to Gambling Policy Statement, funding will not be provided to applicants or community groups who meet at venues that have Electronic Gaming Machines. Already two organisations will be affected! There were some objections to this alteration .  

Links relating to this issue and comments: Dealing Monash Ratepayers a Dodgy Hand

Important Update! Some Councillors not signing code of conduct spared due to stuff ups!

Some Councils stuffed up!

Recently there was an issue with a Monash Councillor (Theo Zographos – Councillor in firing line for not signing code of conduct) for not signing the code of conduct in front of the CEO, but now the Government stated there might have been some stuff ups! 

“Councillors who failed to properly sign a new code of conduct have been spared disqualification and will be able to comply by February. Acting Local Government Minister Richard Wynne said there had been a failure of administrative duties by councils and incompetence in some cases.” Source: The Age

The local Government Minister Richard Wynne mentioned that he received letters from council’s admitting they had made a mistake.

Apparently due to the errors, 107 councillors from 13 different councils faced suspension!

Articles to more info in relation to this debacle!

The Age – ‘They stuffed up’: sacked councils to get last-minute

The Age Victoria – More than 100 Victorian councillors face disqualification

ABC News – Local councils ‘failed to comply’ with code of conduct law changes, Victorian Government says

What do members of the community think of this debacle?

Have your say! – The Local Government Act Review Paper

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The government is reviewing the Local Government Act and proposing to make changes that will make Councils more efficient, transparent and accountable, as well as enhancing community participation.

Here are some of the key new reforms proposed:

  • A stronger role for mayors to lead councils
  • Greater consistency in council structures (wards) to make elections fairer
  • Simpler electoral rolls and voting rules
  • Community engagement
  • Accountable and high performing councils
  • More autonomy for councils to cut unnecessary red-tape
  • A consistent, modern rating system

Have a say!

Community members have an opportunity to provide feedback relating to the Local Government Act Review Directions Paper or proposed changes. Feedback can be provided by making  a submission or viewing the summary ‘At a Glance’ and completing  a quick poll.

Link to The Local Government Act Review Directions Paper website: Act for the Future – Directions for a new Local Government Act.

What do you think of your Council? Do you think changes need to be made?

Have you heard? Monash Council meetings just like a school class?

Monash Council Meetings Class Rules

Monash Council has introduced measures to improve the functioning of Council meetings. However many believe that Council meetings are now more like a school classroom. “If people behave like children and act in an unprofessional way, they can expect to be treated like children.  I make no apologies for that.  I was elected Mayor a few weeks ago to fix our dysfunctional meetings and I am determined to do that” stated Mayor Geoff Lake – Hands on heads improves Monash Council meeting.

Councillors are now required to place two hands on their head if they wish to raise a point of order. I wonder what will be next? A time-out corner?

Monash Council Meetings Naughty Corner

Now Mayor Geoff Lake wants an audit of councillor attendances at Council meetings. “This is because I have become alarmed at the attendance record of some councillors and, in particular, the approach that some councillors are taking in either providing no prior apology when they are absent from a Council meeting or providing unreasonable or insufficient notice of a planned extended absence” said Mayor Geoff Lake – Statement from Mayor Geoff Lake.

Even Monash Ratepayers believe that Monash Council is the School from Hell!  Monash Ratepayers Inc Article Snippet:

Monash Council: The School from Hell

Serial BullyingThe ridiculing and gagging standing order for controlling council meetings is not enough for Mayor Lake. He now wants roll calling to be his new black in councillors’ conduct management. Tracking councillors’ attendance is his next level up in bastardising the LG Act’s code of conduct guidelines, of course conveniently through exercising his Mayoralty position. Source:  https://monashratepayers.wordpress.com/2016/07/05/monash-council-the-school-from-hell/

I wonder what else will be added to meetings? Perhaps we should provide some suggestions. Here are some!

  • Line up quietly to be marched into meeting room by Mayor Geoff Lake
  • Councillors who do not come to meetings prepared will have detention! 
  • Three strikes – Clean up duty!

Councillors Line Up

Instead of Monash Council spending $10,000 to monitor meetings, funds should be used to implement recording of meetings, to give more people access to meetings. It will also ensure a more transparent Council. Recording/Streaming Council Meetings Benefits Disabled Constituents.

What do community members think of these changes? Leave your comments by clicking on the Leave a Comment button above.

Have you seen these articles and comments? 

Monash councillors forced to put hands on head when they wish to speak during meetings

Monash Council Mayor Geoff Lake wants to track councillor attendance at meetings with an audit

3AW Breakfast interview – Monash Councillors have to place their hands on their head if they want to speak at council meetings

New website! Know Your Council!

The website was developed by Local Government Victoria (LGV) for community to have access to information on how local councils are performing and updates relating to local government.

It is important that there is transparency of councils. This website can ensure community have access to information and in a method that is easy to understand.

Do you want to know how Monash Council performed? Please visit the Know Your Council website!

Visit site – Know Your Council

Transparency In Council

There has been some discussion about the merit, risks and benefits of recording and publishing proceedings of our council meetings.  Council has conducted some closed, internal reviews and determined that they don’t consider it to be in the best interests of the community that we have a video record of the conduct of council meetings.  Recent behaviour and procedural chaos might actually suggest that it’s not in the interests of some councillors that too many people see what they get up to on the last Tuesday  of each month.

However, even when it’s potentially very embarrassing to some, there are councils who are not afraid to put their meetings online both live and for subsequent review.

Consider this very controversial meeting at Darebin (http://councils.apstream.net/council/public/Darebin/player.asp?Tab=2&OrgEntity=91&Meeting=1680) in which there was a serious disagreement between councillors as to whether or not they were operating in accordance with the requirements of the Local Government Act – you can’t get a lot more serious than that.

Despite the clearly strongly held divergent views and the sensitivity of the matter in question (Councillors appeared to be challenging the legality of the recent appointment of the CEO!), the meeting was conducted in a generally civil manner (at least up to the point at which four councillors walked out) and the council has not felt it necessary to censor or remove the recording.  The citizens of Darebin have the opportunity to see their council meetings live from home (especially important for those with mobility or other access issues) and to review the meeting in order to develop an informed opinion on matters of significance to their community.

Not so in Monash.  It’s time to get down to Council on the last Tuesday of each month to see and judge for yourself.  Do we need our councillors’ behaviour and processes online for all to see?  Do we have a right to know what’s going on even when we cannot get there in person?

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