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Councillor forced to apologise

cvi Clarence Valley’s councillors, apart from Andrew Baker, have concurred with the findings of a code of conduct investigation into the actions of Cr Karen Toms. All of the councillors, apart from Cr Toms, moved into a confidential session as a ‘Committee of the Whole’ at last week’s council meeting to make their judgements. Councillor Andrew Baker voted against the Committee of the Whole’s recommendation, which was subsequently placed on the public record. Councillor Toms was found to have “breached the Clarence Valley Council’s Code of Conduct by forwarding an email to a third party on 21 April 2015, which contained material considered to be defamatory to that third party and that this conduct amounted to a breach of sections 3.1(a); 3.1(c); 3.2; 3.3; 7.8(b); 7.8(d); and 7.9 of the Clarence Valley Council Code of Conduct; and section 6.5.3(vii); and 6.5.3(xi) of the Clarence Valley Council Electronic Communication Protocol (dated 2 May 2006)”. Councillor Toms is “required to apologise to the author of the email dated 20 April 2015, Mr Kevin Wilson, at the next Ordinary Meeting of Council, both verbally and in writing,” the council resolution states. Councillor Toms is compelled to specifically state in her apology “that I make an unreserved apology to Mr Kevin Wilson for my inappropriate conduct in forwarding his email dated 20 April 2015 to a third party, which was a confidential Council record, and which contained material which could be considered to be defamatory or slanderous in nature”. Following the confidential session, councillors reconvened in open session to adopt mayor Richie Williamson’s motion, seconded by Cr Craig Howe. Councillor Toms did not attend that part of the meeting. Councillor Baker had a much different view of the proceedings. He told his fellow councillors that he would “certainly give no comfort to the writer of [this] [e]mail, as we do with this [resolution]”. “If I was in a similar position where I received … [e]mail and I knew everyone else had received the same[e]mail; and I wanted to check the veracity of it because I was called to make a decision the following day in council on the … subject of the [e]mail, … I would never ever apologise to the author of the [e]mail. “…This [e]mail business that this council now gives comfort to is one of the most disgraceful acts that I’ve seen [the council] participate in [during] my time as a councillor or as an observer of council.” Councillor Baker was the only speaker; Cr Williamson said he “did not intend to invoke” his right of reply. For her part, Cr Toms has issued a media statement: “The conduct complaint process requires that I apologise unreservedly to Mr Wilson the author of the email alleged to be defamatory. “I will make that apology as required. I do not deny forwarding Mr Wilson’s alleged defamatory email in an attempt to check its veracity. “That was done without malice toward any person. The email was not marked confidential. “It is now the case that I’ve been judged to have breached the Code of Conduct by my use of the Council email system and as such I must apologise to the writer of the alleged defamatory material. “That apology will be made as required.” Councillor Baker subsequently told the Independent “that the council had wasted many thousands of dollars” on the investigation. “It’s just a total waste of bureaucratic money that would be far better spent on our shabby roads,” he said.