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Department of Premier and Cabinet

'Where do you draw the line?' - scenario overview

Aim of the scenario

The aim of the scenario is to explore the concept of non-pecuniary interest for councillors, in particular, when councillors should declare a non-pecuniary interest and where they should declare and step out of a council meeting or council committee meeting.

 This is a screen shot from the video showing Councillor Perelli talking to a  community club officer

Ethical issues and points to consider 

Many councillors are actively involved with their local community as part of community clubs and committees. Their dual roles as a member of a club and their role on council may give rise to a non-pecuniary conflict of interest. If they hold the position of officer in a club or association they may have a pecuniary interest. While there is nothing inherently wrong with having a conflict of interest, any conflict needs to be appropriately managed.

The steps for managing a pecuniary interest are set out in Part 5 of theLocal Government Act 1993; while non-pecuniary conflict of interest is dealt with in a council's code of conduct. Councillors should primarily refer to these resources for guidance. Links to further information are provided at the end of the video.

Analysis of the scenario

What ethical issue was evident in this scenario? 

Conflict of interest – The Act provides an exemption in respect to pecuniary interest and non-profit associations and clubs, provided that there is no personal financial benefit or detriment to a councillor or close associate, and provided the councillor is not also an office-bearer in the association or club.

The status of Councillor Perelli's role in the club is not clear from the scenario. If he is an office-bearer, he will need to consider whether he has a pecuniary interest and manage it accordingly under the processes set out in the Act.

What is the  possible impact of Councillor Perelli's actions at each stage?

Councillor Perelli is not acting impartially. His fellow councillors would be likely to be aware of his involvement with the community group and this would influence their view of his conduct on other issues. The Chair of the Council Committee was very clear in requesting that committee members stated whether or not they had a conflict of interest.

This is a screen shot from the video showing Councillor Perelli thinking about his actions 

All decisions must be made impartially and in the best interests of the community as a whole. Councillor's Perelli's actions impact upon council's processes. His decision may have an impact on the community's trust in council's processes.

What resources could Councillor Perelli refer to as a guide to managing his conflict of interest?

  • The Local Government Act 1993 - Part 5
  • The Council's Code of Conduct
  • The Local Government Division website - Resources for councillors