Real estate agent and The Entrance Ward independent Central Coast councillor, Bruce McLachlan, wants to know what skeletons are in the cupboard before making up his mind about whether to stand again as a candidate in the Local Government elections, which will be held in September.
Cr McLachlan and Liberal Councillor Jilly Pilon called on Council to request the CEO, Gary Murphy, to provide councillors with a report on the activity of the internal ombudsman’s office.
The internal ombudsman deals with low level complaints, misconduct and theft, for example.
Director of Governance, Dr Liz Develin, said a high level report could be made public, but investigation details would be confidential.
She said any allegations of corruption would go to ICAC, and those referrals did not go out to the public domain.
Councillors unanimously supported the idea, with Cr Louise Greenaway expanding the scope of the report.
Crs McLachlan and Pilon simply wanted information relating to this Council’s term, with Cr Pilon wanting a briefing on March 30.
The two councillors noted that the previous Wyong Council was often criticised for perceived lack of public disclosure and alleged secretive dealings, with many councillors campaigning on increased transparency.
“In the interest of this transparency, and to gain an understanding of the role, councillors should now be provided with a report of workings of their internal ombudsman’s office,” they said.
But Cr Greenaway said the report should go back to 2012, to include the former Gosford and Wyong Councils, including the period of administration of Central Coast Council.
She pushed back the report to April 30.
The vote was unanimous.
In October 28, 2019, council voted to develop a dedicated Internal Ombudsman webpage describing the role and how the community could interact.
It said it would introduce routine reporting by the internal ombudsman.
At an earlier meeting in July, 2019, then Mayor, now Deputy Mayor, Jane Smith, had attempted to establish an integrity and ethical standards unit to investigate and resolve complaints.
In October, 2019, a report returned to the councillors with input from the audit, risk and improvement committee which did not believe that Council needed an Integrity and Ethical Standards Unit.
Instead, the staff recommended an increase in the internal ombudsman function and transparency.
Council adopted that recommendation.
The webpage promoting the internal ombudsman is not yet on the council website.
Central Coast Council meetings
February 24, 2020, October 28 and July 22, 2019
Reporter: Merilyn Vale