Clarence Valley Councillor Debrah Novak
Clarence Valley Councillor Debrah Novak Caitlan Charles

Councillor forced to apologise for 'inappropriate conduct'

A CLARENCE Valley councillor's inappropriate conduct toward a council staff member on social media could cost the council almost $10,000.

The first report in the latest council business paper, released on Thursday, reveals Cr Debrah Novak has been the subject of a Code of Conduct inquiry into allegations of inappropriate behaviour toward a member of the council's Economic Development team. The inquiry was held by Sydney-based dispute resolution consultants Train Reaction.

The results of the inquiry were heard during a confidential session of September's council meeting.

The report in the council business paper, released on Thursday, recommends the council receive and note a report from the investigators which includes accepting all seven recommendations from the inquiry.

The first recommendation from the inquiry is to make public the findings of inappropriate conduct by Cr Novak.

The other findings, all recommended for adoption, could allow the council to formally censure Cr Novak for multiple breaches of the Local Government Act, demand Cr Novak publicly acknowledge the breaches at a council meeting and deliver an unqualified apology to any staff members affected, without identifying them.

It could also require the councillor not make derogatory comments in public or on social media about the outcome of the inquiry, do training on the Code of Conduct and undertake six one-on-one coaching seassions to develop better self-awareness skills, general communication skills, empathy and awareness of the the impact she has on others.

The findings also recommended amending the council's Social Media Policy to include provisions relating to the use of social media by councillors (noting that it is the general manager's responsibility to implement this recommendation should he agree with it.)

It set a three-month time limit to complete the recommended actions.

In her letter apologising for the behaviour, attached to the council report, Cr Novak revealed the alleged offences occurred in five Facebook posts.

"I unequivocally state that at no time was it my intention or purpose to breach the Code of Conduct or cause, or be seen to cause, bullying or harassment of Clarence Valley Council staff through my five Facebook posts," she wrote.

Figures in the council report show the inquiry and training for Cr Novak will cost the council almost $10,000. The breakdown is: $3300 for Code of Conduct training and coaching, plus $120 for venue hire.

The cost of Cr Novak attending the course is a further $3500 plus an estimated $3000 in associated costs.