Response to public concerns over comments made by Councillor Michael Separovich (Cr Separovich)
The City is aware of the concerns in the community regarding offensive comments made by Cr Separovich on social media. The City wholly condemns offensive and discriminatory comments made by anybody in any form.
The City is aware that it appears that nothing happens when people complain about this matter to the City:
Q: If people complain to the City of Cockburn what happens with those complaints?
- The only person who can stand an Elected Member down is the Minister for Local Government. The City has absolutely no power to do so.
- Complaints can be lodged at the City of Cockburn or with the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries.
- The Code of Conduct for Elected Members is currently not enforceable. The Local Government Act, which details how matters like this must be handled, is currently being reviewed. Council provided input to that review at its October 2017 Ordinary Council meeting recommending ‘a standardised and mandatory Code of Conduct for Elected Members be included in the (Local Government Act) review process, that also identifies appropriate penalties/remedies that could apply’. The Local Government Act is still under review by the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries but Council hopes that a mandatory and enforceable Code of Conduct is one outcome. The timeline for the review can be found here opens in a new window.
These are forwarded to City of Cockburn Director Governance & Community Services. This is a position at Executive level that handles complaints of this nature. The Complaints Officer assesses these complaints and if they have potential to breach the Local Government (Rules of Conduct) Regulations 2007, they are forwarded to the State Government Local Government Standards Panel. Once the Standards Panel has reviewed the complaint, they may decide a penalty be issued to the relevant elected member. In the case where a recurring breach is found against the same member, the Standards Panel may refer the matter to the Director General of the Department of Local Government to consider whether the recurrent breach should be sent to a Tribunal to be dealt with. This Tribunal has the power to suspend a member for up to 6 months, or disqualify them from office for up to 5 years. The City has to date received and reviewed a number of complaints from the public on matters concerning Cr Separovich’s social media comments.
Q: How do I complain to the City?
or call us on 9411 3444 and ask for a ‘complaint of a minor breach’ form.
Q: Do I have to fill in a form or can I just tell you my complaint and you will forward it on?
You do have to fill in the form but the City can assist with that if required. If you wish to complete the form yourself, it is the box Regulation 7, which refers to “disadvantaging others”, which is relevant.
Q: If I can’t fill in a form can someone help me?
Yes, we can take your name and number and ask someone to call you or if you would like to come in to the office, we can arrange an appointment.
Q: Can I go directly to the Local Government Standards Panel and if so how?
The Department's website opens in a new window
states that you should use the ‘complaint of a minor breach form’ and submit it to your local government or to the Department.
Q: How long will it be before we know if there are any consequences for Cr Separovich?
We don’t know. This is a matter for the State Government Local Government Standards Panel.
Q: How does the City feel about this Councillor’s actions?
The City of Cockburn has always tried to be a leader in reconciliation and it is extremely dispiriting when anything is detrimental to this very sensitive journey.
The City was the first metropolitan Local Government to lodge a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) with Reconciliation Australia in 2011. The City is now on its third RAP and preparing for its fourth in the year ahead. While reconciliation is a long journey, much has been achieved together. The Council remains as committed as ever to the ongoing process of reconciliation.
In this period of racial upheaval across the world, the City acknowledges the hurt experienced by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and other people of colour. We do not want our journey of reconciliation and relationship-building so far to be damaged by the divisive nature of these comments, and we will do all we can to rectify this.
The City does encourage people to make a formal complaint if they believe an Elected Member has made discriminatory, or offensive comments. It is expected that Elected Members will show discipline in adhering to their self-regulating Code of Conduct as guidance on such issues.