• Tony Bosworth

Deputy Mayor says she will not resign – despite Mayor’s suggestion she step aside after OLG finding

Last year, Deputy Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett made what she says was an honest mistake when she inadvertently filled in the wrong form at a Council meeting. The Office of Local Government (OLG) investigated and agreed.

The OLG found no evidence of dishonesty or motivation for personal gain – it was simply a mistake.

Deputy Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett (centre) with two ladies from the Australian Local Government Association at a recent event

But that hasn’t stopped Mayor Patrick Conolly writing to his Deputy today suggesting she resign.

Cllr Lyons-Buckett told the Post this evening, “I was surprised to receive an email from the Mayor suggesting I resign from my position.

“I will not be tendering a resignation and will stand steadfastly by my record as a Councillor, Mayor and Deputy Mayor, and my service to this community.

“I have no doubt that political opponents and those with vested interests in the Hawkesbury who do not like my presence on Council will attempt to utilise this to discredit me, particularly in the upcoming election [due in September] by selectively using this information or misrepresenting the findings.

“It is sadly what we have now come to expect.”

The issue arose after Cllr Lyons-Buckett mistakenly filled in the wrong form to register her interest in a matter that was to be considered at the Council meeting.

“I believed I had a financial (pecuniary) interest to register. I now understand it was a non-financial (non-pecuniary) interest and I should have used a different form and left the meeting.

“Prior to the meeting, I had sought advice (as I have done on many occasions) and was advised to make my own decision, which I did.”

The OLG accepted Cllr Lyons-Buckett’s explanation, and have told her in writing they have found “no evidence of dishonesty and/or motivation for personal gain”.

The OLG have finished their investigation and have not forwarded it to the Council or any other party for further action, though they have found it to be misconduct under the clauses of the Code of Conduct.

Cllr Lyons-Buckett says she accepts that.

“Essentially I did the wrong thing by staying in the meeting and I accept that. I acted as I believed was correct at the time," says the Deputy Mayor.

“They [OLG] have accepted that I have undertaken the relevant training to increase my understanding of the applicable clauses in the Code of Conduct, and no further action is required,” Cllr Lyons-Buckett said.

In line with the requirements of the Local Government Act, the decision is published as a finding of misconduct and the penalty is ‘counselling’.

“Being a councillor does not make us immune from error but it is beneficial to learn from and rectify any mistakes we may make,” says Cllr Lyons-Buckett.

“This may involve an apology in a Council meeting or the need to undergo further training.”

There are some circumstances when the OLG may refer a matter to Council or onto the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. In this case, neither of those actions has been ordered.

The report itself is not publicly available – it remains confidential - but a summary of reasons for findings can be viewed on the Local Government website.

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