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The code of conduct framework for Tasmanian councillors is prescribed under Part 3, Division 3A (Code of conduct, complaints and complaint resolution) of the Act. A council is required to adopt the model code of conduct as its code of conduct relating to the conduct of its councillors. The model code of conduct is made by order of the Minister responsible for local government and provides for matters such as conflict of interest, gifts and benefits, and use of council resources.
In performing the functions and exercising the powers of your office of councillor, you are required by section 28U of the Act to comply with the standard of behaviour set out in your council’s code of conduct.
Any person may make a code of conduct complaint against a councillor within six months after the councillor has allegedly committed a code of conduct contravention. A complaint is to be lodged with the general manager of the relevant council and accompanied by the prescribed fee.
The Act sets out the process for code of conduct complaints to be investigated and determined by the Code of Conduct Panel. After an initial assessment, the Panel may dismiss a complaint if it is considered frivolous or vexatious. The complainant and the respondent councillor bear their own costs relating to the investigation and determination of a code of conduct complaint.
The Act prescribes the sanctions available to the Panel for breaches of a council’s code of conduct. Sanctions include cautioning or reprimanding a councillor, or requiring them to apologise to a person or attend counselling or a training course. The Panel is also provided with the power to suspend a councillor for up to three months (without allowances) for serious breaches of the code of conduct.
Failing to comply with a sanction imposed by the Panel is an offence under the Act. If a councillor fails to apologise or attend counselling or a training course, he or she may face a penalty or a fine not exceeding 50 penalty units.
The Minister responsible for local government may remove a councillor from office if he or she has received a suspension sanction for three code of conduct breaches during one term of office or two consecutive terms of office.
If a complaint is substantiated, the Panel provides a determination report, which is tabled at the first practicable open meeting of the relevant council. Any confidential council information associated with a complaint is tabled in closed session. Councils are required to publicly disclose in their annual reports any breaches of the code of conduct, including all costs associated with code of conduct complaints.
There is an appeal right from a Panel determination to the Magistrates Court (Administrative Appeals Division) on the basis that the Panel failed to comply with the rules of natural justice.