Horsham Rural City's new councillors will decide whether to adopt a policy designed to prevent them from improperly directing or influencing council staff.
A slim majority of councillors voted to defer the draft Councillor and Staff Interaction Policy on Monday night, at the municipality's last meeting before the 2020 Local Government Elections.
Six of the seven councillors are not seeking re-election in October.
The draft policy states, among other things, that councillors must not direct staff on how to exercise their delegated power. It defines improper influence as "disrespecting the professional opinion, skills or expertise of staff through intimidatory, bullying, harassing or disrespectful behaviour", among other things.
"Councillors should not engage with staff with whom they have friendships in any discussion about operational or personnel matters," it reads.
At the meeting, Councillor David Grimble moved a motion to refer the draft report to the incoming council.
"This is a policy the new council should develop, and in my mind by doing so it creates an opportunity for them to understand the policy," he said following the meeting.
"It's really their working platform, how they are going to engage with council staff for the next four years.
During debate, Councillor John Robinson said he was concerned the document didn't clarify the differences in responsibility between the council and chief executive.
Councillor Pam Clarke said it was the council's responsibility, until the day before the election results were declared on October 24, to continue its work.
"This is an important document," she said. "I think having a clear policy now is really good for the new councillors coming in, that they can see the clear definition between strategic and operational. It is a very serious offence under the (Local Government) act.
"This council has been extremely lenient over the years in allowing councillors to talk to directors. I think it's far better that the new council have a clear direction through this policy of what their roles and responsibilities are, and how they are to act and behave with other staff.
"They've got enough to learn when they first become councillors as is, with all the council policies and procedures."
Mayor Mark Radford said he understood both councillors Clarke and Grimble's perspectives. He said the draft policy was more a guide for staff than councillors.
Councillor Les Power echoed Cr Clarke's comments.
Councillors Grimble, Robinson, Radford and Josh Koenig voted in favour of deferring the report, with councillors Pam Clarke, Alethea Gulvin and Les Power voting against.
Under the Local Government Act (2020), a councillor that knowling directs a staff member can be punished with 120 penalty units, equivalent to a $19,826 fine.
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