Councillor abused by colleague

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Councillor abused by colleague

SOUTH Gippsland Shire councillors were shocked after the immediate past mayor used a profane word to describe a fellow councillor at last Wednesday’s council meeting.

Former mayor Cr Kieran Kennedy abused Cr Lorraine Brunt during debate over council’s review of land for sale.

Numerous councillors confirmed to The Star Cr Kennedy used the offensive language.

Mayor Cr Jim Fawcett said councillors met in private after the meeting to discuss the act and intended to pursue the matter further at a councillor only session tomorrow (Wednesday).

“Any inappropriate behavior is regrettable and should not occur, but in the spirit of the moment things can be said that should not have been said,” he said.

“Kieran has rung me to discuss the matter and I think the outcome of council’s deliberations was that we would need to sit back and take stock.”

Cr Fawcett said councillors needed to be careful in “applying good behavior in our dealings with each other”.

As to whether Cr Kennedy would be punished for his behavior – or his role as a councillor was at risk – remains uncertain.

“Our democratic representatives are not subject to the normal code of behaviour that applies in the workplace but we do have a code of behaviour,” Cr Fawcett said.

“You can ask for penalties to be called for or go to the local government inspectorate but at the end of the day, council dictates what is responsible behaviour.

“Council is responsible for being its own disciplinarians.”

Cr Fawcett said the Local Government Act provided a number of options for resolving inappropriate behaviour.

“It would be unwise to prejudge the outcome of that, should that occur,” he said.

Local Government Victoria – the State Government arm responsible for councils – has the capacity to have a panel consider the matter, at the request of council or individual councillors.

That panel comprises experienced former and current local government staff and councillors.

South Gippsland council’s own Councillor Code of Conduct adopted in June 2013 states councillors must treat “fellow councillors with respect, even when disagreeing with their views or decisions” and “debating contentious issues without resorting to personal acrimony or insult”.

The code urges councillors to resolve their differences in the first instance, but they could undergo mediation if that does not end the matter.

Cr Brunt later told The Star she felt the abuse was “leftover grievance” for her not supporting Cr Kennedy’s bid to be re-elected as mayor last year.

Last Wednesday’s council meeting was the first council meeting Cr Brunt had attended since that vote, due to illness, she said.

Cr Kennedy did not return The Star’s call asking for further comment, before going to print.

Cr Kieran Kennedy

Cr Kieran Kennedy

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Posted by on Mar 4 2014. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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