Councillors slam code violations
By Mary Mann
TWO local councillors have slammed the way code of conduct complaints against them have been handled.
Controversial Ballina councillor Margaret Howes and Richmond Valley councillor Ray Jeffery say the decisions to 'punish' them for breaching the code are not fair.
But Ballina council's general manager has dismissed the claims, saying the code is 'here for a reason'.
"You should be able to say what you believe without being punished for it," Cr Howes said.
"It's control of the mind, like a%secret society where you can't do anything because Big Brother is watching. It's making people have to be nice to everybody else."
As punishment for breaking the council's code of conduct for the third time, Cr Howes was asked to write a letter of apology, due last week.
But Cr Howes says she would rather 'get the boot' than apologise for being 'naughty', insisting the request is outrageous.
And she doesn't care that her stubbornness could lead to her suspension. Not apologising could lead to another breach of the code of conduct, and according to the code, if she is censured twice or more she risks being suspended.
"I don't care what they do to me, I'm not going to apologise," she said.
Over at Casino, Cr Jeffery was last week found guilty of breaching his council's code of conduct for falling asleep and not attending a conference in Sydney which the council had sent him to attend.
The incident happened in March last year, when on the morning of the forum he went for a walk, then back at his hotel room he fell asleep and 'forgot about the conference'.
A fellow councillor reported him to the conduct committee, which found he had not used council resources ethically, effectively and carefully in the course of his public or professional duties. The council voted, on recommendation of the conduct committee, to have Cr Jeffery counselled for breaching the code.
But Cr Jeffery said the decision was ridiculous, as he believed he hadn't done anything wrong.
"It's all been blown out of proportion ... it's crap," he said.
"It's just vindictive, political. It was just an accident, it shouldn't have been a breach at all."
Cr Jeffery said there should be more restrictions on what can and can't be classed as a breach of the code, as 'something like that shouldn't be made into such a big deal'.
Ballina Shire Councils general manager Paul Hickey said every council had to have a code of conduct to ensure councillors and staff knew what was expected of them.
Richmond Valley Council's general manager Brian Wilkinson did not wish to comment on the matter.