Three strikes, you’re out

Latrobe City councillors who refuse to leave chambers when kicked out of meetings for disrespectful behaviour could face serious penalties, as part of tough new legislation set to be rolled out across Victoria.

State Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell announced last week legislation would be introduced to parliament this year which would allow mayors to suspend unruly councillors from meetings if they failed to behave after two warnings.

Latrobe City already follows this procedure as part of its local laws, but statewide legislation will mean those councillors who refuse to leave council chambers when asked by the mayor, could face tough penalties.

As part of the proposed legislation, it is understood that noncompliant councillors could be taken before a conduct panel for ‘serious misconduct’.

Current penalties imposed by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for serious misconduct include suspension from office for up to six months, barring from becoming mayor for four years and banning from chairing special committees.

“The new legislation will be instrumental in raising the standard of councillor behaviour,” Mrs Powell said.

“Council meetings are for important discussion and decision-making and cannot afford to be marred by inappropriate councillor behaviour as has been the case in some municipalities.”

Latrobe City mayor Sharon Gibson welcomed the announcement, saying it strengthened council’s existing code of conduct.

“This just makes it crystal clear that this type of behaviour is not tolerated,” Cr Gibson said.

“I would hope we are respectful enough of every position to treat the office with respect and just get on with the job.”

Councillor Christine Sindt said it was nice to see that the rest of Victoria was coming into line with the practices of Latrobe City Council.