What are the Behavioural Standards for Council Members?

    The Behavioural Standards describe the kind of behaviour that all council members must abide by. 

    The Standards relate to behaviour - essentially how a council member acts as they engage with other members, council employees and other people. 

    The Standards include behaviour like:

    • acting respectfully towards others
    • making every effort to represent their council honestly
    • complying with all council policies.

    The Standards are also clear that members should not bully or sexually harass other members or council employees. 

    Why don't the Standards include things like conflicts of interest?

    Conflicts of interest and other 'integrity matters' are not included in the Standards, as they will be included within the Local Government Act 1999. Many of them already are.

    These are matters that, if breached, could affect the integrity of a council member's decision making. They include:

    • conflicts of interest
    • managing gifts and benefits properly
    • dealing with confidential information
    • releasing information about personal interests 
    • acting honestly
    • not using a position as a council member for personal gain. 

    Any complaint that a member has breached these integrity matters should be made straight to the Ombudsman. 

    The Ombudsman has a specific role to investigate these complaints and apply relevant sanctions. 

    What happens if a council member breaches the Standards?

    If anyone believes a council member has breached the Standards, they can complain to the council. This includes other council members, council employees, ratepayers or members of the public.

    All councils will be required to have policies and procedures in place to manage complaints and deal with breaches. 

    Councils can take action to address issues or breaches, which may include: 

    • requiring a member to apologise or undertake training
    • passing a censure motion in respect of the member
    • removing them from other offices they may hold. 

    If the council member does not comply with their council's efforts to resolve the matter, the council can also refer the member to the Behavioural Standards Panel. 

    If a council member repeatedly breaches the Standards, this can also be referred to the new Behavioural Standards Panel for action.

    The Panel can look into the matter and apply greater sanctions, which can include suspending a member for a maximum of three months (with or without their allowance). 

    Are these actions enough?

    When a council member has been behaving poorly, there's often a view that they should be suspended, or even removed from office, immediately. 

    However, it's important to remember that breaches of the Standards - while they need to be addressed - will still be relatively low-level. 

    If a member continues to behave poorly, or if their behaviour affects the health and safety of another council member or employee, the Behavioural Standards Panel will be able to apply more serious sanctions. 

    Complaints about a member will also be able to be lodged with the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT). This may happen when: 

    • the Panel believes a council member's misbehaviour is very serious
    • the Ombudsman is of the view that a member has seriously breached integrity provisions
    • a member refused to comply with a Panel or Ombudsman finding. 

    SACAT has the power to remove a member from office and - if necessary - prevent them from standing again for a period of time. 

    Who will be on the Behavioural Standards Panel?

    The Behavioural Standards Panel will be made up of members independent from the local government sector. 

    Recruitment is currently underway for members of the Behavioural Standards Panel. Panel processes will be established and formalised next year in preparation for the commencement of the conduct management framework. 

    Are there other behavioural standards that apply to members?

    While the Behavioural Standards for Council Members will apply to all councils, some councils may also choose to develop their own Behavioural Support Policies. These might include more specific requirements, such as how members should engage on social media. 

    While councils are not required to have these additional policies, all councils will be required to discuss and decide in the first six months of a new council term. 

    This means that early in their time on council together, members will discuss the standards they will hold themselves to.