IT was a $64,000 question that amounted to nothing.
Bellingen Shire Council was listed among councils across the state for expenditure on investigating complaints.
Figures released by the Office of Local Government (OLG) revealed that no complaints had been lodged against Bellingen Council but $64,019 had been spent dealing with Code of Conduct investigations.
A statement issued by Bellingen Shire Council confirmed this had been an administrative error.
Council's around NSW have seen a significant spike in the number of complaints and the cost to deal with them in the past two years.
Figures released by the OLG show the number of Code of Conduct complaints rose by 63 per cent from 241 in 2017/18 to 395 in 2019/20.
The cost in dealing with the complaints rose by 66 per cent in the same period from $958,463 to $1,593,416.
Kempsey Shire Council, Nambucca Valley Council, Coffs Harbour City Council, MidCoast Council and Port Macquarie-Hastings Council all had at least one complaint.
According to the data, Kempsey Shire Council had five Code of Conduct complaints and spent $1107 investigating, but none of the complaints were found to breach the Code.
Nambucca Valley Council had one Code of Conduct complaint and spent $120 investigating, however, the complaint was found to not be in breach of the Code.
Bellingen Shire Council had a clean slate.
"In line with the Procedures for the Administration of the Code of Conduct Part 11, council is required to report annually the total number of code of conduct complaints made about councillors and the general manager under the code of conduct in the year to September," the statement said.
"Whilst council correctly reported zero complaints made about councillors and the general manager during the reporting period 2019-2020; there was an administrative error regarding the financial data accompanying the report, which should have read zero."
Coffs Harbour City Council had five complaints and spent $9669 investigating; only one of the complaints was found to breach the Code of Conduct.
MidCoast Council had two complaints and spent $0 investigating; ultimately, none of the complaints breached the Code.
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council had four complaints and spent investigating $2650; after investigation, none of the complaints were found to have been a breach.
Lismore Council recorded the most complaints with 52 recorded costing $82,614 in investigation costs, resulting in two breaches of the Code.
Georges River Council spent more than $201,000 investigating 17 complaints of which only three breached the Code.
Shadow Minister for Local Government, Greg Warren, said a major overhaul of the Model Code of Conduct was need to ensure the system was efficient, effective and not used for political point scoring purposes at the expense of councils and their communities.
"When one council is spending in excess of $200,000 in one year to simply deal with code of conduct complaints, serious questions must be asked," Mr Warren said.
"There is no doubt that some people use code of conducts as a way to score cheap political points at a significant cost to the council and their community.
"A lot of time, effort and expense goes into investigating these complaints but the reality is the investigation often results in very little action taken.
"It's councils and their communities who are counting the cost of an ineffective and inefficient Model Code of Conduct."
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