Trio of councillors back rescission motion

Councillors could be keeping their best debate until last, with three demanding a controversial motion be rescinded.

The issue of councillor interest declarations has been a topic of much debate throughout the year and last month's council resolved to contravene guidelines set out under the Government Information (Public Access).

The guideline stated councillors and designated staff should post their interest declarations on council website, which council voted to ignore.

That decision was immediately seized upon by the NSW Information Commissioner, who issued a statement reminding Clarence Valley Council of their obligations under the Act and of their intention to seek clarification on the matter. 

"Inform access rights are enshrined under the GIPA Act to maintain and advance a system of responsible and representative democratic Government, that is open, accountable, fair and effective," Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Tydd said.

Three councillors, Karen Toms, Debrah Novak and Greg Clancy who voted against the initial proposal are now planning to move a rescission motion at Tuesday's final council meeting for 2019.

They are proposing to change the original motion which stated Declarations of Interest should be available "by appointment only" at council chambers to include provisions for them to be placed on councils website.

Cr Toms was motivated to put forward the rescission motion after feeling "appalled" on reading council were being asked to "please explain" by the Information Commissioner and hoped the other councillors had "reflected on the consequences of non-compliance."

During the meeting back in November, Cr Toms was at pains to point out to fellow councillors they were contravening the GIPA Act, however her pleas fell on deaf ears.

"It is disappointing that we want to protect our information that much we are prepared to go against the privacy commissioner's guidelines," she said.

However, the majority of councillors supported allowing the returns to be viewed at the Grafton and Maclean council chambers, with Cr Jason Kingsley saying it was preferable to having them available online.

"There are privacy and safety risks for councillors and our staff and by not putting it on the website at this point in time allows staff to monitor who accesses our private information," he said.

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