Code of conduct complaint

A code of conduct complaint at Robe District Council will be resolved through mediation and conduct training for Robe councillors.

The code breach was reported by Robe mayor Peter Riseley against Cr David Loxton and was discussed at the July council meeting.

It is the third complaint about Cr Loxton this year. He apologised to the council after an initial complaint was upheld in March, but he was found not to be at fault for a second reported breach in May.

CEO Roger Sweetman received the latest code of conduct complaint lodged by Mr Riseley alleging that at the June council meeting, Cr Loxton behaved in a manner contrary to the code of conduct for council members.

The complaint was forwarded to deputy mayor Cr Harvey Nolan to investigate. His report determined that the allegation related to behaviour rather than misconduct or corruption, and based on the level of seriousness of the allegation he recommended resolving the matter internally. 

Cr Nolan’s report said: “My own observations relating to the comments made by Cr Loxton regarding Mayor Riseley in relation to the planning approval process for the Chinese Welcome Gate were disrespectful to the position of the mayor.​

“In relation to the statements made that the mayor had acted inappropriately and was not a suitable person to be council’s representative upon the Planning Assessment Panel I have instructed the Chief Executive to obtain advice as to the appropriateness of Mayor Riseley’s actions regarding the development approval process for the Chinese Welcome Gate.”

The summary of this advice was: 

  • The mayor has not breached either of the penalty provisions with regards to conflicts of interest.
  • The mayor has not breached the code of conduct.
  • The statement made by Cr Loxton that the mayor acted “illegally” could give rise to defamation proceedings by the mayor.

During the meeting Cr Lawrence Polomka said: “I find this sort of behavior quite beneath this chamber quite frankly.

“If the CEO and I have issues we’ll have them out in his office and we have on several occasions already and it has never gone out publicly.

“The only other thing I would say about your recommendation and I know you are trying very hard to resolve this in the most sensible fashion, you do not castigate the whole team when only one player needs to be admonished.”

Cr Loxton said: “I think we could move it but I have a little bit to say about it as well.”

Cr Nolan: “Well I think rather than continue it on I prefer that you air your views to whoever comes down to do the mediation.”

Cr Loxton: “Well I disagree with that, I haven't got much to say but you may actually be interested in hearing it. It’s not going to be personal, I don’t get personal but it’s up to you.”

Cr Nolan finished with: “I’ve made the decision as to what is going to happen, we would be better off if we go through the mediation and we go through the training before we get two sides of the story. It is beyond me to work out who is right and who is wrong and it is beyond all of us sitting at the table to work out who is right and who is wrong, that is why there is the mediation.”

Cr Nolan met with Cr Loxton on June 20 in the council meeting room where the complaint was discussed.

Cr Loxton was told mayor Riseley was seeking a public apology at the next council meeting acknowledging that Cr Loxton’s allegations regarding Mr Riseley’s actions were incorrect.

Cr Nolan said Cr Loxton was asked to provide detail in writing in relation to his response to the code of conduct complaint, however Cr Loxton advised verbally that he would not be apologising.

Cr Nolan added: “I interviewed Mayor Riseley on June 21 in the council meeting room at 9.30am at which we discussed the code of conduct complaint and Cr Loxton’s refusal to publicly apologise.”​ 

Advice has been sought from the Local Government Association – Governance section before formally lodging a code of conduct complaint with the governance panel.

It has been decided that mediation be conducted with both parties in an attempt to resolve the matter and training be conducted regarding meeting procedure, managing the business of council and interpersonal relationships.