|Caretaker Policy Council Elections
||15 March 2016
||01 October 2019
|Responsible Officer: Chief Executive Officer
||Chief Executive Officer
To provide for the Council General Election to be conducted in an environment that is open and fair to all candidates by setting out procedures and practices for the pre-election caretaker period.
During the pre-election caretaker period, the business of council continues and ordinary matters of administration still need to be addressed. This Policy establishes a series of “caretaker” practices, which aim to ensure that actions of the current council do not bind an incoming council and limit its freedom of action.
The Policy addresses:
- Major Policy Decisions,
- Council resources,
- Council Communications, Marketing and Publications,
- Public Consultation,
- Functions and Events,
- Travel and Accommodation,
- Councillor Expenditure,
- Monitoring and Enforcing.
This Policy supplements rather than replaces the legislative and common sense approach to fair and equitable council elections.
- Local Government Act 1989.
- Victorian Electoral Act 2002.
- Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014
- Staff Code of Conduct MPL555.0.20
- Councillor Code of Conduct CPL40.7
- Councillor Expenses & Facilities CPL45.2
- General Signage (including Electoral Advertising Signs) on Council Road Reserves and Land CPL45.8
- Mayor and Councillors Media Engagement Policy
Section 3(1) of the Local Government Act 1989 (the Act) defines the election period to be the 32 day period that starts on the last day of nominations and ends at 6.00 p.m. on the Election Day. For the 2016 General Election the caretaker period commences midnight on 20 September 2016 and continues until 6.00 pm 22 October 2016.
Section 3(1A) of the Act is a matter that is intended or likely to affect voting in an election.
Chief Executive Officer means the appointed Chief Executive Officer or Acting Chief Executive Officer.
Any person employed full-time, part-time or casual by council who receives remuneration for their work.
General council election
An election at which all the members of the council, including the Mayor, have to be elected.
Section 93B (5) of the Act defines inappropriate decisions made by a council during an election period as
(a) decisions that would affect voting in an election;
(b) decisions that could reasonably be made after the election.
5. Council Policy
5.1. Major Policy Decisions
Section 93A of the Local Government Act prohibits a council from making major policy decisions during the pre election caretaker period relative to:
- the remuneration, appointment or dismissal of a Chief Executive Officer;
- entering into any major contracts worth more than 1% of the council's rates and charges revenue for the previous financial year (14/15 $1,819,030) for goods, works and services; and
- the exercise of any entrepreneurial power under s193 if the amount assessed under s193(5A) exceeds 1% of the council's rates revenue for (14/15 $1,819,030) from the previous financial year.
In the event of exceptional circumstances requiring a council decision, an application may be made to the Minister in accordance with s93A of the Act.
During the caretaker period, council procedures will prevent inappropriate decisions being taken. Inappropriate decisions are those that would affect voting at an election or decisions that may unreasonably bind an incoming council and could reasonably be deferred until after the election.
All documentation prepared for Council or special committee meetings will be carefully vetted by the Chief Executive Officer to ensure that no agenda item is included that could potentially influence voters’ intentions at the general election or could encourage Councillor candidates to use the item as part of their electioneering.
Councillors commit to refraining from moving motions or raising matters at a meeting that could potentially be considered an electoral matter.
5.2. Council Resources
It is essential that due propriety is observed in the use of all council resources. It is also important that all councillors have access to the resources necessary to fulfil their elected roles. In order to ensure the proper use of council resources during the pre election caretaker period, the following will apply:
General correspondence addressed to councillors will be answered as usual. However, councillors will only sign necessary minimum correspondence during the caretaker period. Correspondence in respect to significant, sensitive or controversial matters should be forwarded to the relevant General Manager or Chief Executive Officer for consideration and signing.
Council resources, including offices, support staff, hospitality, equipment, vehicles, email, mail/postage, printing, mobile phones and stationery will be used exclusively for normal council business and will not be used in connection with election campaigning.
Reimbursements of councillors’ out-of-pocket expenses during the election period will only apply to costs that have been incurred in the performance of normal council duties, and not for expenses that could be perceived as supporting or being connected with a candidate’s election campaign. Claims for the reimbursement of expenses shall conform to requirements set out in the Councillors’ Expenses and Facilities Policy.
Council logos, including the Heritage (Mayor) Crest letterhead, or other CoGG branding must not be used for, or linked in any way to, a candidate’s election campaign.
Council support staff will not be asked to undertake any tasks directly or indirectly connected with a candidate’s election campaign.
Photos, videos or images taken by or provided by council are not to be used by councillors for the purposes of electioneering or in support of their election campaign. This applies equally to images on council’s websites that may be able to be copied.
No election material or active campaigning is to be conducted at a council sponsored event or displayed in any council building. No such activity to be mentioned/included at Council events (in speeches, etc).
Allocations of budget for councillors seminars/training and attendance at conferences are to be on a pro-rata basis from the commencement of the financial year and the election date, i.e. pro-rata 17 weeks out of the 52 week period.
Prior to the caretaker period the Chief Executive Officer will ensure that all council key staff are advised in regard to the application of the caretaker procedures.
Section 76D of the Local Government Act 1989 prescribes serious penalties for any councillor who inappropriately makes use of their position or information obtained in the role of councillor, to gain an advantage. The following access and restrictions to information will apply:
Council recognises that all election candidates have certain rights to information from the council administration subject to the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 which may prevent the disclosure of certain information. Councillors shall not request or receive information or advice from council staff to support election campaigns, and there shall be complete transparency in the provision of all information and advice during the caretaker period.
Requests for clarification relating to the provision of information should be directed to the Customer Service and Council Business Department who may refer the request to the Chief Executive Officer or appropriate senior management.
Information and briefing material prepared by staff for councillors during the caretaker period will relate only to factual matters or to existing council services to assist councillors in conducting day to day activities.
All candidates will have equal rights to information and advice to ensure complete transparency during the caretaker period.
5.4. Council Communications and Publications
Council communication will not be used in any way that might influence the outcome of the council election.
Section 55D of the Local Government Act 1989 prohibits Council from printing, publishing or distributing or cause, permit or authorise to be printed, published or distributed, any advertisement, handbill, pamphlet or notice during the election period unless they have been certified in writing by the Chief Executive Officer. This power to approve cannot be delegated to another staff member.
The Chief Executive Officer must not intentionally or recklessly certify a publication that contains electoral matter, unless that material is only in respect to the election process.
A council employee must not make any public statement that could be construed as influencing the election. Statements of clarification may be required from time to time and these are to be approved by the Chief Executive Officer.
Council publicity and communications will be restricted to promoting normal council activities and services, and for informing residents about the conduct of the election.
In the event that a spokesperson is required in relation to any publication or communication, the Chief Executive Officer will fulfil that role.
Media services, including media releases, will not be provided for councillors during the caretaker period. At the start of the declared caretaker period Council officers will post a message on all official Geelong Mayor social media channels (i.e. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), clearly announcing that these channels will now become dormant until the completion of the formal election process, and the installation of a new Mayor.
In practical terms, this means no Council officer will post any new content on these channels. They will also adjust the settings for each channel to prevent external parties from also posting any new content. If this is not possible, then officers will hide and/or delete any such posts made by external parties on a regular (at least daily) basis.
No media advice or assistance will be provided to councillors in relation to election campaign matters. During the caretaker period media releases will minimise references to specific councillors in a manner that could promote them as an election candidate. Councillors will not use their position as an elected representative, or their access to council staff and other council resources, to gain media attention specifically in support of an election campaign.
Councillor profiles on the council website will be limited to a photograph and contact details
Any publication on Council’s official social media channels including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram during the election period, must be certified by the Chief Executive Officer.
Staff responsible for administering individual council social media channels will monitor their respective channels during the caretaker period and use their discretion in removing any material that may be deemed electoral matter or unfair promotion of a councillor.
Council’s Annual Report for 15/16 will not contain any material that could be regarded as overt electioneering or that inappropriately promotes individual councillors.
5.5. Certification of Publications
Publications to be printed, published or distributed during the caretaker period must first be certified by the Chief Executive Officer. Certification will be in writing on or affixed to the copy of the publication, retained in a register maintained by the Chief Executive’s staff.
Publications that will typically require certification are:
- Council newsletters, pamphlets, handbills, brochures, leaflets, magazines and books;
- Advertisements and notices;
- Media releases; statements, and all responses to media inquiries;
- Mail outs or emails to multiple addressees used for broad communication with the community;
- New website material;
- Social media posts;
- Events and functions publications;
- Any publication or distribution of councillors’ speeches.
5.6. Public Consultation
Public consultation is a process that involves inviting individuals, groups, organisations or the community to generally comment on an issue or proposed action or policy of council. Public consultations other than those required by legislation should not occur during the caretaker period.
5.7. Functions and Events
Council organised events and functions will be minimised during the election period and shall relate only to legitimate council business and shall not be used, or be capable of being construed as being used, in connection with any election promotional activities. General Managers will be responsible for assessing and implementing risk strategies, which mitigate such events and functions from being used for electioneering purposes.
Speeches must not have any political reference which may be construed as providing a current councillor any advantage during the election period.
All speeches prepared for use at events or functions shall be reviewed by the Manager Communication & Marketing or General Manager Strategy and Performance, to ensure the content does not breach this policy or the Local Government Act 1989.
5.8. Travel and Accommodation
Councillors shall not participate in any interstate or overseas travel in their capacity as a councillor during the caretaker period. In circumstances where it is imperative that the Mayor (or nominee) represent council on a delegation or forum, council may, by resolution, approve such attendance. If consideration by council is impractical, the Chief Executive Office may determine the issue.
5.9. Advice to Candidates about the election process
All election related enquiries from candidates, whether current councillors or not, will be directed to the Returning Officer, or where the matter is outside of the responsibilities of the Returning Officer, to the Chief Executive Officer (or relevant senior manager).
The Council recognises that all election candidates have rights to information from the Council administration. However, it is important that sitting councillors continue to receive information that is necessary to fulfil their elected roles. Neither councillors nor candidates will receive information or advice from Council staff that might be perceived to support election campaigns, and there shall be complete transparency in the provision of all information and advice during the Election Period.
Information and briefing material prepared by staff for councillors during the Election Period will relate only to factual matters or to existing Council services. Such information will not relate to policy development, new projects or matters that are the subject of public or election debate or that might be perceived to be connected with a candidate's election campaign.
A publication and information request register will be maintained by the Chief Executive Officer’s staff
5.10. Monitoring and Enforcing the Policy
Where an issue arises in relation to this policy, the Chief Executive Officer is responsible for determining the implementation of this policy.
There are specific penalties applicable to breaches of the Local Government Act 1989 which are applicable to either councillors, Chief Executive Officer or staff as follows:
126.96.36.199. Section 76D Misuse of position
1) A person who is, or has been, a councillor or member of a special committee must not misuse his or her position:
(a) to gain or attempt to gain, directly or indirectly, an advantage for themselves or for any other person, or
(b) to cause, or attempt to cause, detriment to the Council or another person
Penalty: 600 penalty units or imprisonment for 5 years or both.
188.8.131.52. Section 55D Prohibition on Council
1) A council must not print, publish or distribute or cause, permit or authorise to be printed, published or distributed, any advertisement, handbill, pamphlet or notice during the election period unless the advertisement, handbill, pamphlet or notice has been certified, in writing, by the Chief Executive Officer.
2) The Chief Executive Officer must not intentionally or recklessly certify an electoral advertisement, handbill, pamphlet or notice during the election period unless it only contains information about the election process.
Penalty: 60 penalty units.
6. Quality Records
Quality Records shall be retained for at least the period shown below.
|Certified copies of records
||As per PROV