By KIERAN FINNANE
Just in time for Deputy Mayor Matt Paterson’s announcement of his candidacy in the forthcoming Territory election, council’s Conflict Management Policy was up for discussion at last night’s committees meeting.
Although this issue has been exhaustively thrashed out in public, the policy was curiously in the confidential papers.
Director of Corporate Services Sabine Taylor said it could be brought into open once council had accepted the policy.
Councillor Eli Melky, however, moved to have it brought into open immediately, seconded Cr Jimmy Cocking, with CEO Robert Jennings agreeing that he couldn’t see any requirement for it to remain in confidential.
Mayor Damien Ryan, whose candidacy in the election has been known for months and already the subject of controversy over perceived conflicts of interest, left the meeting.
Cr Melky asked DM Paterson whether he should leave.
Ms Taylor said she saw no conflict for either the mayor or the deputy mayor in being present to discuss policy in the area. The CEO agreed.
DM Paterson stayed. The mayor was invited to return but decided not to.
Right: Mayor Ryan’s vacated Zoom location (the library).
While the policy maintains the position that there is no conflict of interest in councillors running for election in another tier of government, Ms Taylor explained the notion of “conflict of duty”. If there were potential for any such conflict for Elected Members, their duty would be first and foremost to council as its membership is the “substantive” position held.
One of the requirements of the proposed new policy – a “matter of fairness” for all – is that all Elected Members notify the CEO of the community-related meetings they are attending in the three months leading up to the election.
Cr Cocking argued this would be onerous indeed: as he sits on a couple of boards and heads up a community organisation, he attends countless meetings every week. The policy needs a definition of “community”.
She will provide one, said Ms Taylor.
Cr Marli Banks said some criteria for what qualifies as a meeting are also needed.
Ms Taylor suggested Elected Members use their best judgment for this.
DM Paterson had no argument with disclosing his meetings, but he wanted to know what the difference is, in relation to a conflict of interest, between being a member of a political party and being a candidate. He suggested members of parties should also have to declare that fact.
Cr Cocking agreed party membership should be written into the register of interests, but he did see a difference: once you are a candidate running for political office, it must be clear whether you are talking to people as a councillor or as a candidate.
Cr Melky, while commending councillors who put themselves forward as candidates, also saw a “big difference”. A candidate has entered a contest from which the benefits, potentially, are financial reward, power, access to resources.
Both he and Cr Banks mentioned the particular difficulty looming for council with both its “principal” (the mayor) and deputy running in the election. Who should be then the official voice for council?
No doubt, the policy will be tweaked before it comes up for a vote at the end of the month.