Council code to be reviewed

Dunedin's mayor is instigating a review of the Dunedin City Council's code of conduct in a bid to take the politics out of the process.

Mayor Dave Cull has called for the review, saying he would prefer complaints were referred directly to independent commissioners to handle instead of him - as is the case now - to remove any question of lack of transparency around decisions.

''It is a council decision, but from my personal view, I am not comfortable being in a semi-judicial role [in dealing with complaints] and I would prefer to take that out of it, so as to de-politicise it.''

He said the code, which sets out the expectations of the city's elected representatives, and punishments - ranging from an apology to suspension - for breaches, was ''so complicated'' and the rules verged on contradicting themselves at times.

''And there is the matter of complaints coming to me ... I personally think it would be better to have independent commissioners hearing complaints, but we'll see what council has to say about it.''

As part of a series of complaints laid in 2011, Cr Vandervis filed a complaint against Mr Cull because of the way the mayor had handled ''a whole bunch of issues'', including points of order raised by councillors during council meetings.

Mr Cull said his move to raise a review of the code was not specifically linked to that incident, or about dealing with some councillors in a different way, but the case with Cr Vandervis was a good example of how, when there was a complaint about the mayor, there were difficulties.

''That's where you do have to find someone independent, so why not have someone independent for all of the complaints?''He said the council would hold a workshop to discuss the issues involved and then try to achieve some consensus on the way forward and draft a new code of conduct.

The conduct committee, which deals with any complaints, unless first resolved by the mayor or deputy mayor in mediation, had been reconstituted in its previous form in the interim.

The committee is made up of Mr Cull, deputy mayor Chris Staynes and an independent member.

If the mayor is the subject of a complaint, his place on the committee is taken by another councillor.

Mr Cull said councillors and community board members would be involved in discussions around any possible changes and any recommendations on a new code would brought back to the council for consideration.

He hoped the review would be completed in the next few months.

The code of conduct is part of the council's standing orders. The code can be revoked (but must be replaced with a new code) or amended at any time.

-debbie.porteous@odt.co.nz

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