Another Coorong councillor breached code of conduct, investigation finds

Cr Glynis Taylor has been found to have breached behavioural rules in a post on Twitter.

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Another Coorong councillor has been found in breach of the code of conduct for elected officials.

Cr Glynis Taylor breached the code in a social media post from December 2019, the council revealed last week.

In the Twitter post, Cr Taylor suggested that people who made complaints should have to pay for the cost of investigating them.

Further details were not yet available at the time of publication, as the council had not yet published a report into Cr Taylor’s conduct despite voting to do so “immediately” last Tuesday.

But the council’s minutes show she was found to have breached two sections of the code of conduct, relating to behaviour and to relationships with fellow councillors; and that she had since apologised to Cr Neville Jaensch.

Section 2.2 asks councillors to “act in a way that generates community trust and confidence in the council”.

Section 2.9 asks that they “maintain a respectful relationship with all council members, regardless of differences of views and opinions”.

Allegations that Cr Taylor had breached another five sections of the code of conduct were dismissed.

Four of the Coorong’s nine councillors have now had code of conduct complaints levelled against them.

Vern Leng was found to have breached the code in June, while Paul Simmons and Lisa Rowntree were cleared of alleged breaches last month.

Mistakes were made in previous Jaensch investigation, auditors admit

The latest revelations come only days after investigators sensationally admitted making mistakes in a previous report about Cr Jaensch.

At an emergency meeting on Tuesday, pictured, two representatives of auditing firm Galpins apologised to councillors in person for errors they made in a report into Cr Jaensch’s past credit card use, published last month.

The firm incorrectly raised suspicious about nine transactions at service stations; in reality only two should have been called into question.

“I can’t ... promise we won’t make a mistake again, but what I can promise you is that we will learn from this one,” Galpins’ Tim Muhlhausler told councillors.

“We offer our unreserved apology to all of you in the room.”

The same firm completed another investigation for the council in 2019; could he be sure no mistakes had been made with that one?

“This has never, to my knowledge, happened to us before,” Mr Muhlhausler said.

Cr Jaensch did not attend the meeting, which then descended into a debate about whether or not he deserved a written apology.

The eight remaining councillors could not agree on that – a vote was tied 4-4.

A further investigation of issues raised in the credit card audit will continue.

Resolving complaints has cost ratepayers tens of thousands

Meanwhile, the cost of investigating code of conduct complaints about Coorong councillors has run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

The investigation into Cr Leng alone had cost ratepayers $32,000, community and corporate director Deb Brokenshire told councillors last week.

“This figure includes fees charged by the (Local Government) Governance Panel, (an) independent investigator and lawyers along with approximate costs associated with staff time, resourcing and administrative costs,” she said in a written report.

“The amount of $20,000 (for staff time) is an estimated amount based on the significant amount of hours dedicated to meetings with various parties, travelling to lawyer/governance meetings, report writing et cetera.”

The $32,000 total did not include the cost of the subsequent investigations into Councillors Simmons, Rowntree or Taylor; nor any other investigations which may be ongoing at the council.

The investigation into Cr Leng’s conduct attributed the Coorong council’s problems to the “highly polarised and destructive” relationship between its two factions: the former Team for Change and the previous generation of councillors.

Councillors agreed a year ago that they needed to bring in professional mediators to help sort out their differences.

Clarification: A previous version of this article erroneously suggested Cr Taylor’s tweet was about Cr Jaensch. Photos: Coorong District Council (top), Peri Strathearn.

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