councillor, Karen Toms, has defied a direction to make a formal apology after being found guilty of breaching the council’s code of conduct at the February council meeting.
Seven of the valleys councillors, not including Cr Andrew Baker, concurred that Cr Toms “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”.
Councillor Toms was “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 stated.
Instead, at last week’s meeting, Cr Toms read the following statement: “I wish to state at all times I acted in good faith.
“This matter related to an email I and every other councillor received from a person claiming to represent an organisation, and containing information and allegations to influence me in my decision making of a council agenda item the following day.
“That email was not marked confidential, private, or not for distribution.
“I am entitled to and required to check the veracity of information provided to me in an attempt to influence my decision making.
“Some months later the writer claimed the information to be confidential.
“At a previous councillor training session held in this very chamber [Maclean] I was advised by the trainer, ‘that an email sent to three or more people was not confidential’.
“That trainer is now the investigator of my conduct.
“I’ve taken advice from a solicitor on the investigator’s findings and recommendation.
“As a result of that, I’m in the position where I decline to say anything further on this matter.
“On that basis I now declare a conflict of interest and my intention is to remove myself from the chamber for this item.”
Councillor Toms handed her declaration to the general manager and left the chamber; however, there was no discussion of the matter and she was invited to return and participate in the remainder of the meeting.