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December 3, 2022

Lismore Council’s dirty Code of Conduct laundry aired at final meeting

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Outgoing Lismore councillor Eddie Lloyd had a lot to say about the Code of Conduct and how it was managed. Photo supplied

The Annual Code of Conduct Report for Lismore City Council is basically that, an annual report – a document that Council receives and notes, about the behaviour of folk in Council.

It’s a ‘who’s been naughty’ list, but, it also appears that the ‘code’ isn’t always honourable – or honest.

During Tuesday’s final Council meeting for the term, outgoing Councillor Eddie Lloyd was ready to speak about the code – and the conduct.

‘I feel like I have intimate knowledge and lived experience,’ she said.

‘It’s interesting to note that in the previous year of captured statistics there were 52 Code of Conduct complaints made, and this period covers one September to the end of the next August, nine Code of Conducts at a cost to our ratepayer of $110,000.

‘The total number of Code of Conduct complaints in our entire five-year term is 80 – 61 of which occurred between 2019 and February 9 of this year. On the 9th of February at that huge meeting, we saw a change in management and a change in the Mayor.’

An escalation in Code of Conduct complaints

Cr Lloyd said that in 2019 there was an escalation in Code of Conduct complaints coinciding with certain events, the main one being the SRV (Special Rate Variation) where some Councillors started asking questions and were not getting answers and information not being given to them.

‘I asked for legal advice on the SRV process. It was obtained, but then the General Manager refused to provide it to me. Councillor Guise, Councillor Casson and I continued to ask questions – about our finances, our operations, our businesses – and we were told our questions were operational, Commercial in Confidence, not related to our duties, and if we continued to ask those questions, we were threatened with Code of Conducts.

‘We continued to ask for information and then the Mayor accused myself, Cr Guise and Cr Casson of bullying the then General Manager and some unknown senior staff. The Mayor said we were under investigation by SafeWork New South Wales and the OLG and other agencies and until they completed their investigation, we were not allowed to speak to staff.

‘We were never told why and after six months of restrictions, after engaging our own lawyers, we discovered that we were never under investigation.’

Before he was Mayor, Isaac Smith and Adam Guise in happier times in 2014. Photo Tree Faerie.

A thorough investigation of the Mayor

Cr Lloyd says they launched their own Code of Conduct and that the investigator did an incredibly thorough investigation of the Mayor and found that he had breached numerous provisions in the Code of Conduct including damaging their reputation.

The recommendation: that he’d be publicly censured at the February meeting.

‘The gaslighting was over and we were to be validated,’ said Cr Lloyd. ‘The Mayor handed in his resignation, effective 31 January.’

Cr Lloyd spoke of a time in 2020 when Council moved to Zoom meetings owing to the pandemic. ‘We saw that same Mayor mute us when we tried to speak. Community members started to contact us asking us for support. Were we okay? Thank-you Janine Wilson and Robert Wilson for reaching out to us when we were at our lowest point.

‘And while we were in this chamber many of you stood by and watched this bullying go on and on and on, except for Cr Ekins, who continually called our Mayor out to account, but he just ignored and muted her when she did.

‘And thank you to Cr Marks who did support me through the dark time when I’d pick up the phone and he would answer.’

Cr Casson coded for smirking and for liking a Facebook post

Cr Lloyd said that in addition to being restricted and told they were under investigation for most of 2020, the ridiculous Code of Conduct complaints continued against the three Councillors. ‘Cr Casson was coded for smirking; for liking a Facebook post – dismissed. I was coded for allegedly using my position on council to improve my standing in the community – dismissed.

‘The stress was insurmountable when we would attend meetings under this oppressive, oppressive circumstance. We were trying to parent, work and in the public, we were being shut down, gaslit and muted and in private we were fighting these Code of Conducts.

‘It was not a safe workplace for us, but due to confidentiality provisions, we weren’t allowed to talk about it.

‘But the Mayor could not be publicly censured as he’d resigned in a confidential session. Each of our fellow colleagues genuinely apologised to us for not standing up for us when they should have. They did not know because all of the matters were kept confidential.’

A change in management and leadership 

‘Thankfully, we had a new change in management and a new leadership team,’ said Cr Lloyd. ‘But the previous regime continued to this year, notwithstanding OLG and SafeWork investigations were over and never actually occurred.’

Cr Lloyd said she received another Code of Conduct for bullying the General Manager. This was investigated by an external conduct reviewer. ‘More lawyers, more stress. It went on for many months and resulted in a 57-page investigation report with not one allegation sustained, and indeed, the findings were consistent with me being the victim of a continual attack and the Code of Conduct system being used as a weapon against me.

‘Thankfully, the culture within this organisation has changed. And it’s so interesting to note that not one code of conduct complaint has been made since the change in management in February of this year.

‘Our governing body has become functional, trust in our decision making has begun to improve and we have healed a lot. We are in safe hands now.’

Adam Guise. Photo Tree Faerie –

Hopes that the current leadership team continues

Cr Lloyd says she truly hopes that the current leadership team continues to the next term. ‘And I hope that the complaint system is never used as a weapon against Councillors again, because it was our community that missed out. They did not have all of us able to discharge our duties and serve them as we were elected to do.’

Cr Guise (who also appears to have been wrongfully coded) said that Cr Lloyd’s words were sobering and a genuine recount of some very painful time on this Council, particularly for a number of Councillors.

The relationship between the Mayor and the General Manager

‘I just want to iterate how important it is for the community to understand the relationship between the Mayor and the General Manager and their role in upholding the values of Councillors on Council,’ he said.

‘Code of Conducts are the worst process to go through. They’re also the worst system to hold Councillors to account. They’re done in secrecy, like a secret investigation, and there’s lots of room for manipulation by people to use them as weapons and to use them to silence Councillors in their duties,’ said Cr Guise.

‘The OLG provides no assistance to Councillors. We’re in fact thrown to the representation, more moneyed up and powered to shop around and get Code of Conduct investigators or lawyers to support their persecution.’

A breath of fresh air

Cr Guise said he wanted to highlight what a breath of fresh air it was to have a new GM and a new Mayor who bring a new culture of fairness, open communication, genuine engagement and giving Councillors a voice in the chamber. ‘We aren’t intimidated. We aren’t silenced in our duties, and we’re given access to the information we need to discharge our duties.

‘I say that because we’re coming to an election, and it’s very important to recognise how quickly those things can change.

‘Councillors here can only hold the General Manager to account. We don’t have control over staff, and the General Manager is the person that directs and controls staff – there’s an awful lot of them in this organisation making decisions every day. So it’s utterly important that you have a governing body that recognises their role in directing the General Manager and overseeing their performance, and ensuring that the General Manager faithfully and ethically does their role in accordance with the act.

‘It’s only the governing body that can hold that person to account. If you have a governing body that sides with unethical behaviour, or turns a blind eye to it, you risk the functioning of a Council,’ he said.

‘We don’t want a repeat of that. We’re in very good hands now. And I hope that this continues beyond the December election.’

Cr Guise said he wanted to thank Mayor Ekins and Mr Donnelly for bringing a new, safe working environment to council. ‘And acting in the best interests of our community. I hope that this continues and we never revisit this dark period of Council again.’


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6 COMMENTS

  1. “acting in the best interests of our community.”
    They say there is a first time for everything, but after forty years of Lismore Council’s abominable behavior, I’ll believe it if I see it.
    Cheers G”)

    • Well I’ve seen our Mayor speak, listen or contribute at the ‘Free Assange’ rally, at the Organic markets, Lismore Gallery openings, and Landcare projects – maybe it’s time to get out more to see it, so you can believe it?!

  2. I second Margrette’s thanks to the Echonetdaily for this article and I offer my thanks to the present Lismore City Councillors for their commitment and perserverence in what were very trying circumstances .

  3. Thankyou Echo for this article, now things are making sense as to what happened with council.
    I hope the past mayor and GM will be held accountable for their wrongdoings , underhandedness and manipulation of councillors , or does the previous mayor and GM just walk away without and repercussions ?

    • Yes you would hope they would be held accountable but I doubt that would happen. The sacked GM especially believes her own BS that she did a fabulous job and did nothing wrong of course. Lismore truly did get the raw deal with the worst Mayor and GM combo ever imaginable. Two that fed off each other. Now Lismore LGA seems to have a truly healing combo, let’s hope it gets to continue and shine into the new year. I fear if the Kreig fellow gets Mayor we may be in for an even bumpier ride?

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