New Model Code of Conduct processes come into effect from 1 March, 2013, and NSW Councils should have all their procedures in place in order to be compliant.
The new Model Code is a radical reworking of the previous Code and introduces a number of major changes to the way Councils need to approach Code of Conduct matters, especially those involving complaints against general managers or councillors.
The Code is now broken into two separate instruments – the Model Code detailing prescribed standards of conduct only and the Model Code Procedures, setting out the processes necessary to administer the Model Code.
The new Model Code has been modified in limited but important ways, including:
- Removing Part 1 Context ie Introduction and Key Principles
- Creating a new class of standards focused on maintaining the integrity of the Code itself
The new Model Code Procedures sets out more substantial change. Key changes relevant to those dealing with misconduct issues include:
- defining what constitutes a “Code of Conduct complaint”
- complaints must be made within 3 months of the alleged conduct (or becoming aware of the alleged conduct) unless compelling grounds exist
- complaints must also be in writing (or confirmed in writing) and may nominate the complainant’s preference in how the matter is to be dealt with ie to be resolved by mediation or by other alternative means
- removing the involvement of general manager or Mayors in the management of complaints about councillors or the general manager – beyond the initial receipt and referral to the Complaints Coordinator (unless informal settlement of the complaint is possible)
- Councils to establish a new Complaints Co-ordinator position to co-ordinate the referral of complaints (other than a specified list of complaints) against councillors or the general manager to conduct reviewers and to provide annual complaints statistics to the Division of Local Government (the Division)
- new processes for setting up panels of conduct reviewers
- special complaints management arrangements for serial or like complainants
- new provisions on the confidentiality of conduct complaints and PIDs
- rights of review concerning the Procedures lie with the Division
For additional details on this major change for NSW Local Government, see our Local Government Newsletter Edition 1 for 2013