Complaint cost to ratepayers already $6k

Questions have been raised about an ongoing code of conduct complaint that has already cost Shellharbour City Council ratepayers $6000.

It is not known what or whom the complaint is about.

Under new procedures, each council's complaints co-ordinator must, within three months of the end of September each year, report on complaints about councillors and the general manager. The report is then presented to the council and to the Division of Local Government.

Shellharbour's code of conduct report showed just one complaint had been made, but $6362 had been spent on that complaint, which had been investigated only by the conduct reviewer and was yet to be investigated by a conduct review committee.

Neighbouring Kiama council investigated one complaint, which cost the council $400 and was resolved before being referred to a conduct reviewer.

Cr Kellie Marsh asked why it cost $6000 for one person to investigate one complaint.

Cr Marsh queried at what stage, if any, the costs became capped, where the money came from and how long the process should take.

"Is it $20,000, $50,000 or $1.5 million?" Cr Marsh asked, a reference to Shellharbour council's infamous Land and Environment Court case, in which councillors Geoff Rose and Helen Stewart were accused of leaking confidential information.

General manager Michael Willis said the one thing that could be drawn from the report was "the matter is yet to be concluded".

"I am not at liberty to go into any discussions about it," he said.

Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba said the general manager did not have the ability to say how much the investigation would cost because it was going through a process that had to be followed.

"What the costs will be depends on the process it goes through and how long it takes, and that is not something any of us or the general manager can answer," Cr Saliba said.

Cr Paul Rankin said the council was doing well to have only one complaint.

"I know that one council up north had 38," he said.

Last month, Shoalhaven City Council revealed it had spent more than $37,000 investigating code of conduct complaints against councillors in the 12 months to August 31. Nineteen complaints involving six councillors were received in that period and none were upheld.

Four complaints were referred to a conduct reviewer and all proceeded to investigation.

One complaint was referred to the Division of Local Government under Part 8 of the Code of Conduct. The complaint was not substantiated.

The total cost of dealing with code of conduct complaints received in the period, including staff costs, was about $37,280.

At the time, Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash said it was important that if people had concerns they had avenues within which to address those concerns.

However, she hoped people would not use the process to make vexatious claims.

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