Geoff Helisma |
Councillor Debrah Novak was formally censured at the October 16 Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting for alleged breach of CVC’s Code of Conduct.
The results of an investigation – conducted by Sydney-based investigation, training and mediation services provider, Train Reaction (at a cost of $7,450) – into Cr Novak’s alleged breach of CVC’s Code of Conduct were discussed and adopted in a confidential session at the September council meeting.
As a result, it was recommended Cr Novak “Publicly acknowledge the investigator’s findings of breach of clauses 3.1 (a), (c), (d), (e), 3.2, 3.3, 6.2 (c) and 6.7 (e) and (f) of Council’s Code of Conduct and give an undertaking to Council that she will avoid similar breaches in future”.
Councillor Novak read from a pre-prepared apology.
“I have carefully considered the matters relating to the anonymous formal complaint that has been made against me as an elected Clarence Valley Councillor with regards to five Facebook posts I made over a year ago,” she said.
Councillor Novak then cited nine aspects of the Code of Conduct. “I have received and noted the investigator’s findings and I give an undertaking to CVC I will avoid similar breaches in the future,” she said.
“I apologise for any offence I may have caused to CVC Economic Development Department.
“I give a personal undertaking that I will not make any negative or derogatory comments regarding the complaint, the outcome or the Code of Conduct process publically, including on Facebook and to the media.
“I agree to undertake further councillor professional training and development.”
Councillor Novak is now “required to undertake a series of up to six one-on-one coaching sessions to assist her to develop better self-awareness skills, general communication skills, empathy and the ability to appreciate the impact that she has on others”.
This training will cost $3,300 (including GST) and $120 for venue hire.
The report to council also recommended that Cr Novak enrol in an upcoming Executive Certificate for Elected Members course in Sydney, with an estimated cost of “$3,500 with associated costs of attendance anticipated up to $3,000”.
However, councillors recommended (Cr Novak had left the meeting) that the course, “hosted by Local Government NSW be offered to all Councillors when hosted in the Clarence Valley or nearby Council areas”.
In the past, Cr Karen Toms completed this training at her own cost – at that time councillors did not support her application for public funding.
The Independent asked general manager Ashley Lindsay who will pay for the councillors’ executive certificate training.
“Council will reconsider this training opportunity,” he said in an emailed response. “Yes it will be offered to all Councillors.”
The Independent also asked why CVC/ratepayers is/are paying for Cr Novak’s coaching sessions, instead of at her own cost?
“The Office of Local Government’s Procedures for the Administration of the Model Code of Conduct prescribes how an alleged breach of the Code of Conduct is to be managed.
“The expectation is that individual councils bear the cost of investigations and any subsequent related costs.
“The Council determined, in this case, that the Code of Conduct Reviewer’s recommendations should be complied with and in doing so agreed to bear the cost of those.
“Local government has no authority to apportion these costs, or to require any other party meet these costs.
“The intent of the training is development and improved performance.
“It is in the interest of community that councils are required to provide development opportunities for elected members.”