A code of conduct complaint against Dorset councillor and North East Railway Group chairwoman Wendy McLennan has been determined.
On March 29, deputy mayor Dale Jessup lodged the code of conduct complaint against Councillor Wendy McLennan for having allegedly breached parts of the council's code following a council discussion about the North East rail corridor.
Cr Jessup said the alleged breaches took place at the council's meeting on November 19.
It was Cr McLennan's first meeting as a councillor following the October local government election.
The breach was said to have taken place during a notice of motion from Cr Jessup that regarded the future use of the North East rail corridor and the council's position of support.
The motion stated: "That Dorset Council unconditionally adopts the approach outlined by Peter Gutwein MP, Treasurer and Minister for State Growth in his recent letter received by Council proposing a compromise solution for future use of the North East rail corridor."
Cr Jessup stated Cr McLennan declared an interest in the item, but that it was not a pecuniary interest.
She remained in the meeting and participated in the discussion and vote.
This constituted a breach of the code on multiple grounds, Cr Jessup said.
Cr McLennan held executive positions on both the North East Railway Group and North East Residents and Farmers Group, both of which had publicly put forward strong anti-trail and pro-railway view. She was also on the board of Diesel Traction Tasmania Inc (LNER).
Cr Jessup said Cr McLennan had used social media to advocate support for the railway, voiced her support for the railway at a City of Launceston council meeting, and had spoken publicly and to the media about her views on the issue.
She also had a sticker on her car reading "Keep the North East Railway", Mr Jessup said.
The deputy mayor said it was his belief that Cr McLennan could not bring an open and unprejudiced mind to the debate, given her executive positions in the groups and her public advocating for the railway.
He said she had a material interest in the item and should have left the room during the debate and vote.
If Cr McLennan had voted for the motion she would have been going against the aims of the organisations that she was a member of and her position would have been "severely compromised", Cr Jessup said.
However, Cr McLennan said her position on the committees actually gave her a complete understanding of the background to the motion and its impact on the Dorset community.
She believed the matter of the rail corridor should have been discussed at a council workshop prior to the meeting where a decision was to be made - especially as it was the first meeting with a newly elected council.
Cr McLennan said she believed there had been insufficient consultation with the residents along the corridor and she was at the meeting to represent the community, not just the "train people".
She alleged the code of conduct complaint was being used to silence her, and that the Dorset Council was attempting to made her position as a councillor as untenable as possible.
The code of conduct panel consisted of chairwoman Lynn Mason, Penny Cocker, and legal member Anthony Mihal.
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The panel upheld part of the complaint.
"The panel upholds the complaint that Cr McLennan failed to exercise reasonable judgement before deciding that her conflict of interest was not so material as to require her to remove herself from the Council meeting room," the report said.
The panel said though Cr McLennan acted in good faith and the conflict of interest was not so material as for her to remove herself from the discussion, she did not consider the conflicting obligations of the two organisations she belonged to.
"The panel heard consistent evidence that Cr McLennan believed that while in the council meeting her obligations towards Diesel Traction Inc did not need to be considered, and as a result, she did not take her position as a board member of Diesel Traction Inc into account," it said.
"The panel finds that Cr McLennan failed to give adequate consideration to this circumstance prior to deciding how to respond to her conflict of interest and therefore failed to exercise reasonable judgement."
Cr McLennan had found the culture within the council to be "antagonistic and intimidating", which may have led to a reluctance to seek advice, the panel said.
Allegations that she was prejudiced, influenced, and did not declare her conflict of interest were dismissed.
No sanctions were imposed against Cr McLennan.
For more information, and to read the full report, read the Dorset Council agenda here.