SIR – I write in response to your front page article and editorial (‘Councillors clash, The Bunyip, December 13), to share some facts that you might not be aware of.
My Code of Conduct (COC) complaint was not aimed at suppression of free speech, but rather at determining if Councillor Paul Koch’s letter to the editor (LTE) on August 2, that you referenced, where he publicly criticised a decision of council, vilified those other elected members who voted differently to himself, and made false and misleading claims, was allowable for elected members.
I twice wrote to Cr Koch asking him to explain his motives, but he refused to even acknowledge my communications.
I then wrote several emails to Mayor Karen Redman and Chief Executive Henry Inat asking their opinion, and asking whether Cr Koch’s LTE was allowable and possibly a breach of the COC.
The mayor insisted that I could only get an answer to that question by lodging a ‘formal complaint’ with her, using the template she provided.
This was despite previous questions regarding possible elected member breaches of the COC being resolved without the requirement of a ‘formal complaint’.
Also in my mind was the fact that, if it was determined by the mayor that Cr Koch’s LTE was not a breach of the COC, and considered to be appropriate, then any elected member could follow suit!
It would mean, for example, that I could let my feelings be known publicly about council decisions regarding the Gawler East link road, how elected members had voted, and about the hundreds of thousands of ratepayer dollars wasted along the way – something I had thought I was not free to share publicly.
I, ultimately, followed the mayor’s directive and submitted the required ‘formal complaint’.
When the initial report came back, and it was apparent that Cr Koch had not breached the COC, I sought to withdraw my ‘formal complaint’, terminate the process and, subsequently, contacted the mayor.
My request was denied.
As my complaint had not been upheld, the matter could have been discharged then and there, with no requirement in the Code, nor in the relevant Act, that an unsubstantiated complaint need come before council for public disclosure.
The matter could have remained forever the private and confidential matter that it had been to that point – a matter between no-one other than the mayor, Cr Koch and myself.
The only upside of this very expensive, and now public, saga is that legal opinion has now clarified that it is okay for Cr Koch, and for any elected member, to publicly criticise democratic decisions of council, and for them to also vilify and name how other elected members vote on matters.
As you, the editor, said in your editorial on this matter… vive la free speech.
Note: These are my personal comments on the matter.