Sindt to snub panel

Latrobe City Councillor Christine Sindt says she has no intention of appearing before the Councillor Conduct Panel that is expected to examine whether she has breached her code of conduct.

The two-member independent panel will be chosen by the Municipal Association of Victoria, after an application was lodged last week by three of Cr Sindt’s fellow councillors.

Exact details of their complaints against her, or the sections of the code of conduct referred to, have not been made public.

Maintaining she had done nothing wrong, Cr Sindt told The Express this week she would not attend any hearing of a panel because she considered the allegations against her a “witch hunt” and she had “more important things to do” with her time.

“People have got a right to their own opinions and councillors have got a right to vote in line with their conscience and not be monitored by the thought police,” Cr Sindt said.

“I think it’s absolutely silly.”

It is understood a no-show by Cr Sindt would not stop proceedings from going ahead.

A Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning spokesperson said if a councillor did not attend a Councillor Conduct Panel, the panel could still make a finding of misconduct and sanction the councillor in their absence.

As part of its powers, the panel could direct a councillor to make an apology or take a leave of absence of up to two months.

Cr Sindt’s behaviour has drawn community criticism since early March when she opposed the symbolic declaration of the Latrobe Valley as a Refugee Welcome Zone.

She then made controversial posts on her official councillor Facebook page referring to Islam and in an interview with ABC Melbourne radio host Jon Faine, when asked whether she distinguished the difference between the Islamic community and radical extremists, replied “to me, it’s pretty much the same”.

She later attended the Reclaim Australia Rally in Melbourne on Easter weekend. Some community members have supported Cr Sindt’s views.

In April, a Latrobe City mediator was appointed following requests for Cr Sindt to remove certain posts from her official Facebook page, but Cr Sindt refused to attend mediation.