DERWENT Valley councillor Paul Belcher must undergo compulsory ethics training or risk being suspended from council.
Local Government Minister Roger Jaensch made the decision after Mr Belcher’s breach of the council’s Code of Conduct and his failure to address the concerns raised in the Code of Conduct hearing last year.
Mr Belcher has three months to undertake the ethics training with a focus on his obligations as a councillor to comply with the Local Government Code of Conduct, not to bring the council or the role of councillor into disrepute and not reflect adversely on the reputation of the council.
He must also take action to make his business, Pauly’s Pizza, compliant with council health and environmental requirements.
In September last year, an independent panel found Mr Belcher had breached the council’s Code of Conduct by bringing the council into disrepute.
Mr Belcher was given an infringement notice for opening his Burnett St business before completing the necessary health and environmental requirements.
The complaint was brought against Mr Belcher by a former council environmental officer.
At the time, Mr Belcher said he accepted the result, but added he felt he had no choice but to open his business without all the permits in place because of the overly bureaucratic process.
Earlier this year the Gazette asked Mr Belcher if he had paid the infringement and addressed the health and environmental requirements.
He responded: “Everything was sorted out before I fronted the code panel. Have great Easter. Regards, Dvc most popular councillor, PB.’’
This is just the fourth Performance Improvement Direction issued in Tasmania since November 2017, when they were first introduced.
It is the first against an individual councillor, the others being against Glamorgan-Spring Bay Council, Flinders Island Council and Brighton Council.
The Code of Conduct panel said it did not accept that with seven years experience as a councilor, Mr Belcher’s ignorance was a defence for non-compliance.
Mr Belcher admitted at last year’s hearing that he had “broken the law’’ in relation to council health and environment requirements.
Mr Jaensch said Mr Belcher had indicated he intended to undertake the ethics training. Mayor Ben Shaw said it was disappointing that an elected member with seven years local government experience would put themselves in this situation.
“I welcome the Performance Direction from the Minister and I sincerely hope the ethics training provided can help Councillor Belcher become a more informed and effective representative of our community,’’ Mr Shaw said.
“I understand this will be a difficult time for Councillor Belcher and I truly hope he takes up the direction of the ethics training and comes back better for it.
“It is also a timely reminder that no matter what position you hold in society that it’s clear that nobody is above the law.’’
Comment was sought from Mr Belcher.