Conduct code a 'waste of time'

Councillor claims serious breaches of confidentiality were not acted on in the past.

Councillor claims serious breaches of confidentiality were not acted on in the past.

COUNCILLOR Graeme Thomson says it is a waste of time for Gisborne District Council to be talking about a code of conduct when there have been serious breaches of confidentiality in the past and nothing was done about them.

Cr Thomson said the most recent breach of confidentiality had come from a councillor but there were earlier occasions when there were other people in the room who could have been responsible.

His comments came as the council adopted a new code of conduct.

Cr Thomson said the code contained a clause saying that members should not disclose confidential information or compromise the impartiality or integrity of staff.

There had been a breach of confidentiality of a most serious nature yet no one was lifting a finger to see what they could do about that.

“Should we be even bothered about taking notice of a code of conduct when there have been clear breaches of the most serious nature and there has been no effort made to try and source that.

This was not just against the code of conduct, it was against the law.

“The person who did this creates suspicion on all of us.”

It was being treated with a “wet bus ticket.”

Not only that it created suspicion about who it might be. Someone could be put in mind as who it might be but that had been proved to be wrong in the past.

If it became a legal matter that person could be charged under the law of the land. That person became a criminal and therefore had no right to be sitting at the council table.

Mrs Campbell asked him whether he was talking about the previous breaches of confidentiality on the council building when matters discussed in public excluded ended up straight in the paper or the meeting held just before the election that also ended up in the paper. He said in the earlier situations there were other people in the room and that had to be taken into consideration.

The most recent breach had no staff present so was definitely “one of us”.

Standing orders

Mayor Meng Foon said this was not the place to discuss that, this was about standing orders.

Rehette Stoltz said there was now a new refreshed code of conduct committee. If the mayor was keen they could look into something like this.

But as Mrs Campbell pointed out there had been quite a few breaches in the past term.

“So I would encourage people that this is a new term,” she said.

“Let’s grab this code of conduct and make it our own."

Mrs Stoltz pointed out that the code said members’ business activities must not intrude while council meetings were in progress. That meant that mobile phones must be turned off.

Members should use morning tea and lunch breaks to attend to activities that were not on the agenda. They should not use a laptop for other business.

She interpreted this as meaning councillors should not be looking at Facebook, the code said or reading the New Zealand Herald, The Gisborne Herald anything else while a meeting was in progress.

Chief executive Judy Campbell the only way the code could be enforced for this clause was if councillors “potted” their neighbours.

She attended many meetings where people had their i-Pads or devices in front of them and she had looked around at one stage and not one single person was looking at the speaker.

The standing order was designed to keep people concentrating on the meeting as opposed to being distracted.

She also reminded new councillors that under the Local Government Information Act all e mails relating to council business and even texts could be requested under the Local Government Information Act.

This article has been amended. Originally it incorrectly stated that Gisborne District councillors were supplied with computers.

Democracy services manager Heather Kohn said that councillors were allocated $1050 a year to offset the costs of communication with constituents and for council business. It includes partial reimbursement of internet and telephone bills, and the purchase of computers and mobile phones under the council’s communications devices policy.

This amount was fixed by the Remuneration Authority on the basis that councillors worked for 22.1 hours a week. The authority was strict in how this money was spent.

Over half the councillors received electronic agendas and in the last triennium seven councillors used the policy to purchase electronic equipment.

The mayor, who was regarded as a full-time employee by the authority, was given a computer and cellphone under a different arrangement that was not part of the communications devices policy.

COUNCILLOR Graeme Thomson says it is a waste of time for Gisborne District Council to be talking about a code of conduct when there have been serious breaches of confidentiality in the past and nothing was done about them.

Cr Thomson said the most recent breach of confidentiality had come from a councillor but there were earlier occasions when there were other people in the room who could have been responsible.

His comments came as the council adopted a new code of conduct.

Cr Thomson said the code contained a clause saying that members should not disclose confidential information or compromise the impartiality or integrity of staff.

There had been a breach of confidentiality of a most serious nature yet no one was lifting a finger to see what they could do about that.

“Should we be even bothered about taking notice of a code of conduct when there have been clear breaches of the most serious nature and there has been no effort made to try and source that.

This was not just against the code of conduct, it was against the law.

“The person who did this creates suspicion on all of us.”

It was being treated with a “wet bus ticket.”

Not only that it created suspicion about who it might be. Someone could be put in mind as who it might be but that had been proved to be wrong in the past.

If it became a legal matter that person could be charged under the law of the land. That person became a criminal and therefore had no right to be sitting at the council table.

Mrs Campbell asked him whether he was talking about the previous breaches of confidentiality on the council building when matters discussed in public excluded ended up straight in the paper or the meeting held just before the election that also ended up in the paper. He said in the earlier situations there were other people in the room and that had to be taken into consideration.

The most recent breach had no staff present so was definitely “one of us”.

Standing orders

Mayor Meng Foon said this was not the place to discuss that, this was about standing orders.

Rehette Stoltz said there was now a new refreshed code of conduct committee. If the mayor was keen they could look into something like this.

But as Mrs Campbell pointed out there had been quite a few breaches in the past term.

“So I would encourage people that this is a new term,” she said.

“Let’s grab this code of conduct and make it our own."

Mrs Stoltz pointed out that the code said members’ business activities must not intrude while council meetings were in progress. That meant that mobile phones must be turned off.

Members should use morning tea and lunch breaks to attend to activities that were not on the agenda. They should not use a laptop for other business.

She interpreted this as meaning councillors should not be looking at Facebook, the code said or reading the New Zealand Herald, The Gisborne Herald anything else while a meeting was in progress.

Chief executive Judy Campbell the only way the code could be enforced for this clause was if councillors “potted” their neighbours.

She attended many meetings where people had their i-Pads or devices in front of them and she had looked around at one stage and not one single person was looking at the speaker.

The standing order was designed to keep people concentrating on the meeting as opposed to being distracted.

She also reminded new councillors that under the Local Government Information Act all e mails relating to council business and even texts could be requested under the Local Government Information Act.

This article has been amended. Originally it incorrectly stated that Gisborne District councillors were supplied with computers.

Democracy services manager Heather Kohn said that councillors were allocated $1050 a year to offset the costs of communication with constituents and for council business. It includes partial reimbursement of internet and telephone bills, and the purchase of computers and mobile phones under the council’s communications devices policy.

This amount was fixed by the Remuneration Authority on the basis that councillors worked for 22.1 hours a week. The authority was strict in how this money was spent.

Over half the councillors received electronic agendas and in the last triennium seven councillors used the policy to purchase electronic equipment.

The mayor, who was regarded as a full-time employee by the authority, was given a computer and cellphone under a different arrangement that was not part of the communications devices policy.

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