Code keeps limits on councillors’ speech

Colac Otway Shire councillors will no longer have to report every conversation about council issues to the chief executive officer, under a revised code of conduct.

But councillors are still unable to express their personal point of view to the media or through social media without mayoral permission.

Councillors voted six to one in favour of the revised code at a special council meeting at COPACC on Wednesday.

Six councillors signed the code at the end of the meeting.

Cr Chris Smith was the only councillor to oppose the code of conduct, criticising its limitations on speaking to community members, using social media to voice personal opinions and talking to the media.

The new code still requires councillors to seek permission from the mayor before making comments to the media or on social media, stating that “public comment is likely to be interpreted as representing the views and position of Colac Otway Shire Council”.

Cr Smith said he agreed with the need for a code of conduct, but believed it should allow councillors to express their personal opinions.

He moved a motion to amend the code to allow individual councillors to express personal opinion as long as it’s clear it’s their personal view and dosen’t represent the council’s view, which is in the Municipal Association of Victoria’s model code.

Cr Smith said the change would ensure council was transparent, which received applause from the gallery.

Cr Stephen Hart said that the MAV’s model code of conduct wasn’t appropriate for the council to follow because it was just a “bare bones” model.

“With the issues affecting Colac Otway Shire in recent years, and perhaps even this afternoon, I think you can understand why the code we’ve come up with goes a lot further than the bare bones code set up by the MAV,” he said.

For the full story see today’s Colac Herald.

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