While bullying and abuse is wrong in any environment, Councils have a specific responsibility in relation to employees. The abuse of CEO’s and other staff is not only unacceptable, but also unlawful, given the obligations all local governments have under Federal and State legislation, and section 5.40 of the Local Government Act 1995, to provide a safe working environment for employees.
Regulation 10. of the Local Government (Rules of Conduct) Regulations 2007 also places very specific obligations on elected members concerning their relations with local government employees; specifically prohibiting attempts to influence or threaten employees, or state in the presence of the public that an employee is incompetent or dishonest; or using offensive or objectionable expressions in reference to local government employees.
Regulation 3. also provides general principles to guide the behaviour of council members, including the need to act with honesty and integrity, act lawfully, and avoid damage to the reputation of the local government.
While the public’s use of social media can be inappropriate, the increased use of social media in the community, particularly in regard to local government related issues, has heightened the need for council members to show leadership in communicating, expressing views and responding appropriately.
This is particularly relevant as the sector approaches the biennial local government elections in October.
The current reform of the Local Government Act will improve councillor training, including for prospective councillors, to equip them for the challenges of the role and to improve governance, however behaviour is a personal choice.
Duncan Ord OAM