Code of Conduct

A copy of a statement by the Ombudsman’s Office on the subject we have been sent effectively says this, not in so many words, but in implication.

What the Local Government Act states on the subject is contained in Section 15 of Schedule 7, reproduced above.

A local council is required to have a Code of Conduct by its members; but how that code is enforced, or even if it is enforced, is entirely up to each council. A code doesn’t have to be anything other than a statement of intent, and need not be acted on.

There have been a few complaints under the KCDC’s Code of Conduct about its councillors, and current Waikanae Ward Councillor Michael Scott has been the subject of two in just 15 months.

The clear conclusion is that councillors can breach the code with impunity — provided they are liked by a majority of the other councillors.  If they are not, then the council may vote to waste $15,000 on an outside ‘consultant’s report as happened in the case of Cr Jackie Elliott, but with the same ultimate result.

Should there be a clear statement in the Act as to what the Code of Conduct must contain, processes for dealing with complaints and consequences if the complaint is upheld?  We think so.

It should be noted that local government members are not the only occupations subject to statutorily mandated Codes of Conduct, but in our experience with that applying to lawyers, they are likewise worthless in practice.   A lawyer can be as obnoxious and antagonistic as he/she likes: the most they can expect is a statement from the Law Society or LCRO that they should not make “intemperate and inappropriate” remarks.

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