PORT Stephens Council will review a meeting code calling on police to remove people from the council building after mayor Ryan Palmer said it was "unfortunate and regrettable" that police were called to remove a councillor from a meeting last week.
"There's big lessons for everyone to learn from this," said Cr Palmer on Sunday after Councillor Giacomo Arnott was escorted by police from the council chamber for "disorderly conduct", defined by Cr Palmer during the meeting as "pulling faces" and "making smart arse remarks".
Port Stephens MP Kate Washington has asked Office of Local Government chief executive Tim Hurst to investigate an incident that started with Cr Giacomo questioning Cr Palmer's ruling on a procedural matter, and ended with the council voting to have Cr Giacomo removed, and a senior council employee calling police.
"Expelling an elected representative from a decision-making meeting is a serious action to take, and one which should not be used flippantly, regardless of the ideological or political differences between councillors," Ms Washington said in a letter to Mr Hurst.
"Used inappropriately, it undermines the function of council and democracy."
Ms Washington has asked that an investigation assess whether the Local Government Act was breached before the vote to have Cr Arnott removed from last Tuesday's meeting, and before the council had considered a number of items of business.
Cr Arnott has lodged a code of conduct complaint against Cr Palmer, and sent copies to the Office of Local Government and Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock.
Cr Palmer initiated a vote for Cr Arnott's removal during debate about who could second Cr Palmer's motion on a roads issue. Cr Palmer declined to respond to Cr Arnott's questions about a ruling, and warned that: "if you want to continue to make smart arse remarks in council meetings we'll be putting forward a motion to remove you from the meeting".
Cr Palmer moved that Cr Arnott be removed from the meeting, and councillors voted for the removal, after the mayor told Cr Arnott: "If you're going to make these faces, this is not what it's about here at the council."
Cr Arnott said he did not believe a reasonable person would view his actions as an act of disorder.
"While this was occurring, I raised concerns about due process being followed when it comes to councillors being expelled from council meetings," Cr Arnott said in his complaint.
Under the Local Government Act and Local Government Regulation a councillor can only be expelled from a meeting if they fail to apologise for an act of disorder, he said.
"I wasn't given an opportunity to apologise," Cr Arnott said.
Cr Palmer said he regretted that police were called because "you don't want police resources to be held up for issues like that".
He also regretted describing Cr Arnott's comments through the meeting as "smart arse remarks".
He said councillors "probably need to review the code of meeting practice" that allows police or "any person authorised for the purpose by the council" to use "only such force as is necessary" to remove a councillor or member of the public from the chamber "immediately after they have been expelled".
A statement on the council's website about the incident did not quote any mechanism under the meeting code where council staff could be removed by police.
Cr Palmer said he was advised police might have been called to remove someone from the council decades ago but "hopefully it never happens again".