Cr clear of misconduct Councillor cleared of misconduct

Karen Toms.
Karen Toms. Adam Hourigan

THERE were tears and hugs in the public gallery at 7pm last night when Clarence Valley councillor Karen Toms was cleared of breaching the council's code of conduct.

It took councillors three hours, one of which was spent in private, to finally put an end to accusations the elected representative had acted wrongly in her dealings with a party that had held a contract for local swimming pools.

Two parties, the names of which were not revealed, complained Cr Toms breached the code of conduct by contacting a contractor.

Cr Toms cried throughout the five minutes she was given to address the council yesterday, before a discussion on a report done by a "sole reviewer" employed by the local authority, which found she had breached the code.

"That attack on my reputation last May was prejudicial in my view," she said.

"I acted honestly and in good faith and with good reason at all times.

"Please keep in mind you are in a process capable of destroying my reputation in the community."

The investigation revealed a number of breaches dating from 2011 until this year.

However, in 2011 Cr Toms, along with Cr Margaret McKenna and the then general manager, were employed to be on a working party to "negotiate" the region's pools.

At a council meeting in Maclean in May, Cr Toms leapt to the defence of one of the pool contractors and expressed concerns about the way the party was being treated by the council. She admitted she had spoken to the contractor.

That sparked the two complaints.

New councillor Andrew Baker spent considerable time querying the report and was the first to recommend Cr Toms' name be cleared due to concerns over process, and that her legal fees be paid by the council.

He lost the vote but when Mayor Richie Williamson attempted to move that further investigations be done by another reviewer, Cr Baker successfully appealed for the meeting to continue in private to address some 100 pages of confidential information.

About an hour later, Cr Margaret McKenna's recommendation that the council determine Cr Toms made no breach of the code of conduct and that the council review the report and procedures was supported by Crs Toms, Simmons, Challacombe and Baker with Crs Williamson, Howe, Hughes and Kingsley voting against.

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