A councillor has a conflict of interest if their decisions as a councillor are, or may be seen to be, influenced by their personal interests.
A conflict of interest exists when a reasonable member of the public with the proper information would think that the conflict is unacceptable and might inappropriately influence a local government's decision or action or lead to a decision that is not in the public interest.
Councillor must inform meeting of any personal interests
A councillor must tell the local government of their personal interest if they have a real or perceived conflict of interest in a matter before the local government.
When informing of a personal interest in a matter a councillor must clearly identify:
- the nature of your personal interest
- if the personal interests arise because of the councillor’s relationship with, or receipt of a gift from another person, then:
- the name of the other person
- the nature of the councillor’s relationship or value and date of receipt of the gift
- the nature of the other person’s interests in the matter
The councillor may choose to leave the meeting room while the matter is considered and voted on.
If the councillor does not leave the meeting, the other councillors will then decide whether there is a real or perceived interest in the matter and, if so, whether the affected councillor must leave the meeting while the matter is considered or may participate in the meeting, including by voting on the matter.
The legislation does provide some exceptions. A councillor does not have a conflict of interest if the:
- local government is considering an 'ordinary business matter' (such as setting rates and charges or adopting the council budget)
- councillor's interest is no greater than that of other persons in the local government area.
- or merely because he or she:
- is a member of, or has a personal connection with, a community group, club, school, church or political party, but is not an office holder for the group, club or organisation
- attends or addresses a community group, sporting club or organisation in their capacity as a councillor.
Failure to appropriately deal with a conflict of interest
There are penalties in place if a councillor fails to:
- inform councillors at the meeting of a conflict of interest
- comply with an order made by other councillors to leave the meeting as a result of conflict of interest.
When a majority of councillors have a personal interest
When a majority of councillors inform the meeting they have a personal interest, councillors must delegate the decision-making process unless an Act requires that the decision must be made by resolution of the local government
In instances where the matter must be decided by resolution, approval must be sought from the Minister for Local Government before councillors affected by the conflict of interest can take part in any associated discussions and decision-making processes.
Attempts to influence others
Councillors must not influence, or attempt to influence any other councillor, local government employee or local government contractor that is authorised to decide or deal with the matter.
It is an offence for a councillor to take any retaliatory action against another councillor for complying with their obligation to report another councillor’s conflict of interest at a meeting.
Other councillors with a conflict of interest
If a councillor believes or suspects on reasonable grounds that another councillor has a real or perceived conflict of interest in a matter being considered at a meeting of the local government, they have an obligation to report your concerns to the chairperson if that councillor has failed to declare their interest.