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Deniliquin Council silenced under strict gag order

A strict gag order is part of a new Deniliquin Council policy for councillors, council staff and any business or organisation working with council.

TYLA HARRINGTON December 24, 2013 4:10am

Councillors, council staff and any business or organisation officially working with Deniliquin Council will be subject to a strict gag order under a new council policy.

Anyone not signing up to the policy or breaching it may be terminated by council, according to Mayor Lindsay Renwick.

It states that ‘‘all council information must be treated as confidential unless otherwise indicated in writing’’.

It applies to direct council employees, councillors, all tenderers, suppliers, contractors and consultants and their sub-contractors or employees’’.

Potential consequences for business partners who engage in any ‘‘unethical or illegal behaviour’’ include termination of contracts, loss of future work, loss of reputation, investigation for corruption and matters being referred for criminal investigation.

Councillors, staff and volunteers not complying may be subject to loss of civic office, investigation, disciplinary action, dismissal and potential criminal charges.

Cr Renwick said as well as protecting confidential council information, the policy would reduce the embarrassment of council’s business partners publicly criticising council.

He referred to the ‘‘targeting of council’s reputation’’ on social media sites like Facebook in recent years.

‘‘It removes the possibility of people taking money from us on one hand and abusing us on the other,’’ he said.

‘‘We have more than 200 suppliers and if they don’t sign up then we don’t have to keep using them.

‘‘There’s been slinging matches with businesses in this town before.’’

Council general manger Des Bilske said it is important to communicate to the community and potential suppliers the expectations of what council will deliver and what is expected in return.

‘‘Historically we have not had a business ethics policy, but it will state what standard we expect from suppliers and encourage people to comply,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s a standard for them to meet. If they don’t, then we are within our rights not to use them again.

‘‘The majority of councils have a range of policies around the relationships between council and providers of supplies and services.’’

The policy outlines that council must ‘‘take all reasonable measures to prevent the disclosure of confidential council information’’ and that any person who comes under the policy ‘‘refrain from discussing council business or dealings in the media, except with council’s consent’’.

The policy also states that any person who comes under the policy must ‘‘not make any public comment or statement that would lead anyone to believe that you are expressing the views or policies of council’’, which could include at public and community meeting, through the media or if what they say ‘‘will become known to the public at large’’.

Cr Jeff Shand said it was a ‘‘fantastic’’ document.

‘‘They (business partners) will have an obligation to deal with us on a professional level – they’re on notice now with this document.’’

The policy also outlines council’s guidelines on gifts or benefits, conflicts of interest, values and commitments, tendering, complaints, use of council resources, harassment and discrimination.

It is now on public exhibition at council’s customer service centre at Civic Place. Submissions are welcomed.

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