Under the Local Government Act 1989 councillors must follow a set of standards that reflect public expectations of their conduct. These standards must be in every council’s code of conduct.
Councils can establish an independent councillor conduct panel, whose two members will be chosen by us, to determine whether a councillor has breached the code.
Establishing a councillor conduct panel
An application to establish a councillor conduct panel can be made by:
- the council, following a resolution to make the application
- a councillor
- a group of councillors
Applications must specify the grounds for the application, and set out the circumstances, actions or inactions of the councillor that are alleged to constitute misconduct. The outcome of any internal dispute process must also be specified.
Once an application has been made, the council’s councillor conduct panel registrar must notify us.
We will then establish the councillor conduct panel which will be made up of two independent people appointed from our panel lists.
We are required to establish and maintain two lists of eligible people who can be selected as members of a councillor conduct panel under schedule 5 of the Local Government Act 1989.
One member will be chosen from each list to sit on a panel.
It is not possible to predict how frequently list members will be appointed to a panel.
Factors that impact frequency include, the number of applications made, the number of members on the lists and the number of times members must excuse themselves on the basis of conflicts of interest, ineligibility or unavailability.
List A: legal members
List A is made up of local legal practitioners who have held a local practicing certificate for and least 5 years.
Current list A members are:
- Roger Batrouney
- Peter Harris
- Sav Korica
- Jo-anne Mazzeo
- Katrina Raymond
List B: municipal governance members
List B is made up of people with relevant experience in municipal governance.
Current list B members are:
- John Bruce
- Matthew Evans
- Jenny Farrar
- Noel Harvey
- Terry Maher
- Jane Nathan
- Judith Voce
Councillor conduct panel procedures
Councillor conduct panels must not make determinations until they have conducted a hearing.
Proceedings must be conducted with as little formality and technicality as the Local Government Act allows.
There is no right to representation except if the panel considers that a councillor requires representation to ensure the hearing is conducted fairly.
Proceedings must not be open to the public.
If the hearing is based on an application made by a council or a group of councillors, an appointed representative must represent the council or group of councillors.
The panel is not bound by rules of evidence and can gather information. It is bound by the rules of natural justice.
The councillor must have an opportunity to be heard during the hearing.
Findings of the councillor conduct panel
After a councillor conduct panel has conducted a hearing, it can:
- make a finding of misconduct
- authorise a complainant to make an application to VCAT
- make a finding that remedial action such as mediation, training or counselling is required
- direct the council to amend its councillor code of conduct or address an issue
- reprimand the councillor
- direct the councillor to make an apology
- direct the councillor to take a leave of absence not exceeding two months
Within 28 days of making a determination, the panel must provide a written statement of reasons to the council, involved parties and Minister for Local Government.
An application for a VCAT review of the panel decision must be made by the applicant or the respondent within 28 days of the panel giving a statement of reasons.
Dismissing an application
A councillor conduct panel can dismiss an application if it is frivolous, vexatious, misconceived or lacking in substance. If insufficient reasons have been given to explain why the matter cannot be resolved by internal dispute resolution processes, the application can also be dismissed.
The legal member chair charges $850 per day and the municipal governance member charges $750 per day. Daily charges do not include GST.
These costs must be paid by the council establishing the panel.
Travel, accommodation and other necessary costs can be reimbursed in accordance with Australian Taxation Ofiice Determination TD2010/19.