Code of Conduct report handed down
By Peter Fish
July 10, 2019
A complaint brought by Cr Dale Jessup against Cr Wendy McLennan following a meeting of the Dorset Council on 19 November 2018 has been heard by a Code of Conduct panel chaired by former Flinders Island mayor Lynn Mason.
At the November meeting Cr Jessup proposed a motion which stated: “That Dorset Council unconditionally adopts the approach outlined by Peter Gutwein MP, Treasurer and Minister for State Growth in his recent letter received by Council proposing a compromise solution for future use of the North East rail corridor.”
Cr Jessup stated that Cr McLennan declared an interest in the item, stated that it was not a pecuniary interest, remained in the meeting, and participated in debate on the motion and the subsequent vote.
Cr Jessup alleged that this constituted a breach of the Code on the basis that that Cr McLennan could not bring an open and unprejudiced mind to the debate, given her previously stated position and her positions on the Launceston and North East Rail (LNER) and North East Residents and Farmers (NERAF) organisations.
In rebutting the complaint, Cr McLennan told the panel that her position on the LNER committee gave her a complete understanding of the background to the motion and the potential impact on the citizens of Dorset; that there had been insufficient consultation with residents along the railway corridor; and that she believed that the Code of Conduct was being used to silence her, and that the Dorset Council was trying to make her position (as a Councillor) as untenable as possible.
In its determination, the panel upheld only part of the complaint - that Cr McLennan failed to exercise reasonable judgement before deciding that her conflict of interest was not so material as to require her to remove herself from the Council meeting room.
The panel found that Cr McLennan failed to give adequate consideration to this circumstance prior to deciding how to respond to her conflict of interest and therefore failed to exercise reasonable judgement.
However, in its report, the panel did state that it was Cr McLennan’s first council meeting as an elected member, and that she had found the culture within the elected members of Council to be antagonistic and intimidating to herself as a new Councillor, and this may have led to reluctance to seek further advice from within Council; and
“She otherwise acted properly and in good faith,” the report stated.
The panel did not impose any sanction against Cr McLennan.