Current code of conduct not good enough

The investigation into Melbourne’s former lord mayor, Robert Doyle’s behaviour has found that the council was not a safe workplace for the two councillors involved.

A summary report of the independent investigation into charges brought against Mr Doyle was handed to councillors at a special meeting yesterday.

President of the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV), Councillor Mary Lalios, said the City of Melbourne report findings against the former Lord Mayor have highlighted the need for better processes to deal with allegations of sexual harassment and maintain a safe workplace for all councillors and staff.

“The bravery of Crs Oke and Sullivan has helped to pave the way for these sorts of matters to be more openly talked about, reported and ultimately prevented.

“However, the current Councillor Code of Conduct processes and internal resolution procedures do not adequately deal with the situation experienced at the City of Melbourne.

“While the current framework was designed to reinforce the responsibility and authority of councils to manage breaches of councillor conduct through a mandatory internal resolution procedure, this process is flawed in certain circumstances.

“Where there are rare and regrettable instances of councillor behaviour - such as sexual harassment - alternative procedures should be available so complaints can be raised without fear in a safe and supported manner.

“The State Government is aware of the current deficiencies and we understand they are looking at potential ways to improve the processes available to complainants.

“The suggestions raised by Cr Oke – an independent role to receive complaints, mandatory training for all councillors, plus sexual harassment to be identified as serious or gross misconduct – are all worthy of consideration.

“We call on the State to continue a process with local government to identify and agree on appropriate solutions to close the current loopholes.

“We are active in trying to encourage greater women’s participation within local government to ensure the views of councils are truly representative of their communities.

“We must also ensure women do not feel vulnerable undertaking their elected roles due to inadequate safeguards that fail to deal with inappropriate behaviours,” she said.