We are not required to investigate every complaint we receive. Complaints must be made in writing and complaints that have been submitted anonymously will not normally be considered for investigation.
Should a written complaint about your conduct be received, we will assess the complaint to decide whether it is one that can, and should, be investigated. You will be informed about the complaint, and provided with the name of the complainant, before the assessment is undertaken.
The complaint will be assessed against a number of criteria, including:
- whether the conduct complained of is within the scope of the Code;
- when the conduct occurred; and
- whether it is proportionate or in the public interest to conduct an investigation.
Importantly, we will also consider whether any evidence has been provided by the complainant, or is readily available, to support the allegation that there has been a breach of the Code. The requirement for supporting evidence helps us to ensure that vexatious, malicious or frivolous complaints will not be investigated.
We aim to complete the assessment of your case within 4 weeks from the date the complaint was received.
The Commissioner may decide to take action instead of, or in addition to, conducting an investigation. We refer to this as ‘Alternative Action’. This might include requiring you to apologise to a complainant or to attend training. Click here to view the Commissioner’s Alternative Action policy which contains more information about the types of Alternative Action we might take and when we might consider taking such action.
The Commissioner has delegated the authority to investigate complaints to the Deputy Commissioner. Click here to view the Protocol which has been established for this purpose.
The purpose of an investigation is to determine if there is evidence of a breach of the Code and, if there is, whether the matter should be referred to the Commissioner for an adjudication decision. A decision to investigate does not mean that we have already decided that you have breached the Code.
If we decide that a complaint about your conduct is to be investigated, you will be given an opportunity to comment on the allegation made against you.
We aim to complete the investigation of the complaint within 48 weeks of the date we notify you, and the complainant, of the decision to conduct an investigation. You can assist in concluding the investigation as quickly as possible by co-operating with any requests we make to provide information and to attend for interview.
The Commissioner will decide whether or not you have failed to comply with the Code and, if so, what sanction, if any, should be imposed. The adjudication decision will usually be taken following a public hearing. Click here for more information on the Adjudication Procedures. The Commissioner can impose one of the following sanctions:
- that you should be censured;
- that you should be suspended, or partially suspended, from being a councillor for a period, up to a maximum of one year; or
- that you should be disqualified from being or becoming a councillor for a period, up to a maximum of five years.
If the Commissioner decides that you should be censured, suspended or disqualified, you may seek leave to appeal to the High Court to appeal the decision.
Further information on the service which the Commissioner provides in relation to complaints about the conduct of councillors can be obtained by clicking on the links below.