VOW: Councillor Debrah Novak.
VOW: Councillor Debrah Novak. Caitlan Charles

High cost of conduct breach

COUNCILLOR Debrah Novak has issued a formal apology after an investigation found she had breached the Code of Conduct with five Facebook posts where she was "seen to cause any bullying or harassment of Clarence Valley Council staff.”

"Re my formal complaint investigation I have carefully considered the complaint made against me as a Clarence Valley councillor,” she said.

Cr Novak responded to the recommendation made, saying she will avoid similar breaches in the future.

Cr Novak pledged to not make any negative comments regarding the code of conduct breach and recommendations made on social media or to the media.

However, it was the cost of training that Cr Novak is required as a result of the violation has caused issue with councillors following revelations it cost more than $7450 for the investigation to occur, which was only reported in the confidential report given to council last month.

General manager Ashley Lindsay said the cost of the investigation should have been in the report.

"It's my responsibility and I missed putting it in,” he said.

The budget implications quoted a cost of $3300 for training with $120 for venue hire and a certificate for elected members at a cost of $3500, with associated costs of attending anticipated to be another $3000.

Cr Karen Toms said there was no time frame for Cr Novak to complete the training, so she suggested the certificate for elected members be completed when a course becomes available closer to home to save money.

This was accepted by all councillors, and Cr Novak will now complete the course when one is on in the Clarence Valley, Ballina or Coffs Harbour councils.

Cr Richie Williamson said code of conduct items were never pleasant to deal with.

"We don't see many of them at our council... they are not pleasant, but we have a role in the community,” he said.

"It's a timely refresher that there are rules of engagement for the code of conduct on how to interact.

"The processes put in place (to deal with these situations), it's not cheap, but there are processes set out by the Office of Local Government.”

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