Consider councillors’ role

May 20, 2016

News that former Shepparton mayor Dennis Patterson has been cleared of any inappropriate conduct after a series of investigations by the Local Government Inspectorate should be sufficient to lay this matter to rest.

We welcome the inspectorate’s finding that Cr Patterson has no case to answer, as well as last week’s announcement that Crs Kevin Ryan and Les Oroszvary are also in the clear.

It is not surprising as a result of the decisions, Crs Patterson, Ryan and Oroszvary feel vindicated in their previous denials of inappropriate conduct under the council code.

Nor is it surprising they would be relieved after an extended period of uncertainty while the inquiries were occurring that will no doubt have taken its toll on their lives by way of stress and embarrassment.

Local councillors primarily offer themselves in service to their cities and municipalities, seldom in exchange for significant monetary recompense.

The more cynical in our communities might suggest there are those who stand for council for personal gain or notoriety and certainly there are some who may fall into that category.

However, for the most part, councillors seek to offer their passion for their communities when there are those among their critics who will never dare to make the same commitment.

Consider then those who are elected to council, the burden of a complaint or complaints, often anonymous, that result in an inquiry from the Local Government Inspectorate; and the embarrassment of having to bear public scrutiny in a regional community where you are well known and recognised whenever you go about your daily business.

Decisions made by a council must be considered in light of their benefit for the entire community and sometimes that will displease those who believe their individual interests should prevail to the point where they seek to discredit the councillor/s responsible.

Consider also the cost to the city and its ratepayers of having to address and investigate these complaints, whether or not they are upheld.

We do not for one minute suggest a councillor or councillors should not be held to account for inappropriate behaviour when it is found, but those who make such complaints must consider whether pursuing them will be for the benefit of the council’s governance and function, or there are more vexatious motives at play.

In this local government election year, the events of the past year related to these code of conduct complaints should be a matter for all concerned to consider the role local councillors play in advancing their municipalities and the respect they should command for a job that can be difficult to do and do well.

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