Georges River councillors subject to an ICAC investigation will be banned from attending council meetings and forums when the matter is being discussed under a proposed order issued by the NSW Government.
Local government minister Shelley Hancock said the proposed Performance Improvement Order (PIO) requires all councillors to make formal undertakings to preserve the integrity of proper processes when raising issues about ongoing investigations and allegations of misconduct by council officials.
"The local Georges River community rightly expects the highest standards of behaviour and integrity from their elected representatives," she said.
"We have zero tolerance for councillors failing to meet required standards of conduct, and that's why we are taking intervention action to preserve the integrity of proper processes and enforce appropriate standards of behaviour.
"The NSW Government will continue to closely watch the actions of councillors and I reserve the right to use my statutory powers as required."
Georges River mayor Kevin Greene said he was 'disappointed but not surprised' by the notice.
"It is galling that the behaviour of a few councillors has led to the council now being required to respond to this notice," he said.
"The majority of councillors have every reason to be angry that the pattern of poor or inappropriate behaviour by certain councillors led to the minister issuing this notice.
"The actions that have led to a notice being issued are a direct result of the behaviour of councillors centred around the active and ongoing investigation by ICAC."
The proposed PIO states that each councillor enters into a written undertaking to:
- Refrain from making allegations of wrongdoing against other council officials at council meetings and forums contrary to requirements under the code of conduct
- Refrain from inappropriately moving motions about the referral of allegations of conduct by council officials to external agencies
- Use the proper processes for making allegations of wrongdoing against other council officials
- Refrain from asking questions at council meetings about an ICAC investigation into their conduct
- Not attend any council forum at which an ICAC investigation into their conduct is being considered.
- Council review the adequacy of its systems and protocols for maintaining the confidentiality of information with a particular focus on council investigations
- Council address any inadequacies in its systems and protocols for maintaining the confidentiality of information
The minister has provided the council with a notice of intention to issue the PIO and allowed 14 days to make a submission as determined by the Local Government Act.
Mrs Hancock must consider any submission before making a final determination on whether to issue the PIO.
Georges River Council Independent councillor Sandy Grekas said she had mixed emotions regarding Minister Hancock's actions.
"Action by the Minister against certain councillors on Georges River Council is long overdue," she said.
"But unfortunately the Notice of Intention to issue a Performance Improvement Order is a slap in the face for those councillors who have been doing the right thing, and persistently calling out poor and inappropriate behaviour.
"To say I feel let down by the Office of Local Government and the Minister is an understatement. Minister Hancock had the perfect opportunity to take decisive action against the two councillors named in the Minister's proposed Order. Yet unfortunately her Notice appears to spread blame evenly, regardless of the strong actions some of us have tried to take."
ICAC told the Leader earlier this year it 'does not confirm or deny if it is undertaking investigations, or comment on investigative matters'.