A Newcastle councillor facing a code-of-conduct censure motion has raised concerns about how the matter was made public before it had been resolved.
Independent Kath Elliott is facing a formal censure motion and referral to the Office of Local Government for removing confidential papers from the council chamber after a meeting in February.
Cr Elliott's identity and the nature of the complaint against her were made public at 12.40am on Wednesday, at the end of a marathon council meeting beset by technical problems.
Councillors voted in confidential session to postpone debate on the matter until next year as several councillors had left the meeting.
Chief executive officer Jeremy Bath then read out the resolution to lay the matter on the table, which included the substance of the matter being held over.
This included details of the complaint against Cr Elliott and the disciplinary action recommended by an external code-of-conduct reviewer.
Cr Elliott's fellow independent, John Church, interrupted Mr Bath to say he had not agreed to lift the confidentiality around the investigation and the recommended courses of action.
"We came out of a confidential session having agreed simply to lay the matter on the table; not to put these allegations out into the public domain," he said.
Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes responded by saying the reviewer's report remained confidential and that the resolution being read out was that moved by her Labor colleague Emma White during the confidential session.
We came out of a confidential session having agreed simply to lay the matter on the table; not to put these allegations out into the public domain.Cr John Church
"You're on the public record wanting everything to be open and transparent, but you don't want this recommendation to be open and transparent," she said to Cr Church.
The council then returned to confidential session so Cr Church could change his vote before Mr Bath again read out the resolution.
Mr Bath later told the Newcastle Herald that the council complied with confidentiality requirements governed by the code of conduct and related procedures.
"The elected council is entitled to lay the matter on the table and to provide grounds for doing so. This is what occurred Tuesday evening and has been done previously with regard to code of conduct complaints," he said.
The council's Procedures for Administration of the Code of Conduct says: "Information about code of conduct complaints and the management and investigation of code of conduct complaints is to be treated as confidential and is not to be publicly disclosed except as may be otherwise specifically required or permitted under these procedures."
The code of conduct for councillors says they must not "disclose any confidential information discussed during a confidential session of a council or committee meeting or any other confidential forum (such as, but not limited to, workshops or briefing sessions)".
Mr Bath said the council's code of conduct and code of meeting practice "do not restrict the council's ability to nominate the wording of a resolution, whether that be to approve, reject or lay a matter on the table."
The council censured Cr Elliott in October after an independent investigator found she had breached the Office of Local Government's code of conduct last year by revealing confidential information to the media about the cost of City of Newcastle's move to Newcastle West.
Earlier this year, an investigator found she had breached the code of conduct by verbally abusing Mr Bath in a council workshop.
She has faced other code-of-conduct complaints.
Cr Church said on Friday that he believed Labor councillors had been using code-of-conduct complaints as a political weapon.
Deputy lord mayor Declan Clausen, who brought the complaint against Cr Elliott, said the council had followed the same procedure used when previous complaints had been laid on the table.
He said the council had resolved to receive a memo about the damage to its reputation of "repeat poor behaviour from some councillors".
Cr Elliott said on Friday that she had not shared the document, which related to a council waste contract, after taking it home in February.
"I was provided with a dense and lengthy document with complicated commercial arrangements about the recycling contract with a few minutes to read and digest before being forced to make a decision," she said.
"I took it home because I did feel we'd be making other decisions on the recycling contract, and I thought it was important that I have adequate time to re-digest the material to make more robust decisions in future."
She said it was "puzzling" that the council was keen to be open and transparent about matters relating to her censure but were "quite the opposite" about the move to Stewart Avenue.
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