News State Victoria News Melbourne council code of conduct revealed

Melbourne council code of conduct revealed

robert doyle code of conduct
An investigation made four adverse findings against Robert Doyle last month (accuser Cr Cathy Oke pictured). Photo: AAP
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Melbourne mayor and deputy offices have been rid of all alcohol after a $660,000 investigation found Robert Doyle sexually harassed two councillors after consuming “substantial amounts of red wine”.

City of Melbourne is expected to sign off on a new Code of Conduct on Tuesday to address shortfalls exposed by the allegations against the former lord mayor.

It comes as a council finance report revealed Town Hall spent $660,000 in legal fees on the investigation.

Barrister Ian Freckelton QC made four adverse findings against Mr Doyle in a summary report handed down in March. Mr Doyle has denied all allegations.

In a report to council, to be considered on Tuesday, chief executive Ben Rimmer said all alcohol has been removed from the lord mayor and deputy offices “to ensure a safe workplace is maintained”.

Responsible service of alcohol was also being enforced at council dinners, the report said.

The new Code of Conduct adds expectations around human rights and equal opportunity, sexual harassment, bullying, occupational health and safety, and drug and alcohol consumption.

Cathy Oke – whose allegations against Mr Doyle were upheld by the investigation ­– said she was proud of her fellow councillors.

“We’ve develop [sic] a Code of Conduct that sends a clear message on standards & behaviour we expect & reinforces our commitment to the community, to each other & provides certainty to councillors facing a difficult situation,” Cr Oke wrote on Twitter on Friday.

A second investigation into Robert Doyle sexual harassment allegations was not conclusive.
Mr Doyle resigned in February. He denies all allegations. Photo: AAP

The code previously made no mention of sexual harassment. It will now be reviewed annually, and four months after general elections.

“Victims should not see their only option before them is to resign to seek justice,” Cr Oke told a council meeting earlier this year, as Town Hall grappled with former councillor Tessa Sullivan’s resignation.

An independent respectful conduct adviser will be appointed under the new code. The adviser will clarify rights and obligations for councillors, and advise on appropriate avenues to report allegations.

Gross misconduct complaints can be taken to the Local Government investigations and compliance inspectorate.

Serious allegations of disrespectful conduct can be taken to the CEO, who will initiate a preliminary investigation. The CEO would then consider legal advice as to whether a full investigation should take place.

The Municipal Association of Victoria state council meeting on Friday will consider Town Hall’s submission to make sector-wide improvements.

Mr Doyle stood down pending an investigation in December when Ms Sullivan levelled the first allegations against him and resigned.

He formally resigned as lord mayor in February, sparking a by-election, before Dr Freckelton handed down his report in March.

It found Mr Doyle groped Ms Sullivan’s breast in May last year.

Dr Freckelton also upheld that Mr Doyle had moved his hand in a sexually inappropriate manner on Cr Oke’s inner thigh in December 2014. He also attempted to kiss her at his office in late 2016 or early 2017, the investigation found.

Each of the incidents occurred after Mr Doyle consumed substantial amounts of red wine, according to the report.

A second investigation by Melbourne Health has not made any findings while Mr Doyle is too unwell to face the investigation.

Melbourne Health reportedly gave the former chairman an ultimatum to respond to allegations he sexually harassed a woman at an event in June 2016 or undergo an independent health assessment.

Votes for the byelection closed 6pm on Friday. Provisional results will be listed from 7pm on Friday, before a lord mayor is declared next Monday.