Lismore councillors are concerned about confidential documents being leaked.
Lismore councillors are concerned about confidential documents being leaked.

’We can’t trust each other’: Tensions rise at council

WITH accusations of distrust and dishonesty over private information becoming public, Lismore City Council has condemned the leaking of confidential information to the public.

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The council spent more than an hour on Tuesday debating councillor Neil Marks' plan for the council to investigate the alleged leaking of confidential information to the public.

His proposal comes after a series of confidential matters and emails between staff and councillors have been leaked to social media accounts in recent years.

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Cr Marks said both councillors and staff had come to distrust each other in recent months, and hoped the Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee (ARIC) could oversee the investigation.

"This investigation looks at everybody and I hope you can build the trust with our staff and ourselves and the community," he said.

"I don't know who has been leaking the information, (whether it's a) councillor or staff member.

"We all know how a code of conduct works (but) it would need to name someone."

His suggestion to get ARIC to investigate councillors and staff's electronics to "find the leak" was ultimately rejected by the council because of the potential financial and time-consuming pressure an investigation could entail.

However, the council did vote in favour Cr Gianpiero Battista's amendment to simply "condemn the leaking of confidential information into the public domain".

The council supported the motion to "recognise the harm and damage these leaks have on Lismore City Council's reputation with our community and our stakeholders".

But Cr Darlene Cook said more should be done because the toxic relationships between council and staff were proving to be detrimental in the running of the council.

"Someone out there is doing (the leaking), it may be a councillor or a member of staff," Cr Cook said.

"But we can't (exist) for another 12 months in a climate where we don't trust each other.

"I don't think I can go another 18 months in this council and not know who I can and can't trust."

Meanwhile, community member Big Rob, who runs social media pages where leaked information has been published, addressed the council during community access on Tuesday.

He opposed Cr Marks' proposal because he believed there was already a code of conduct in place to address leaking allegations.

"Every councillor has leaked information; I've spoken to every councillor there," he said.

"Leaks are also coming from lower ends of staff, there's over 400 staff.

"I think it's a secondary process that will take too much time and money and give someone too much power …. And will just end back up on the code of conduct anyway."

But after he accused all the councillors of leaking information, Mr Rob was disconnected from the virtual meeting when the discussion escalated between him and Cr Marks over the allegations.