Supreme Court matter – Cr Epov

Published on 03 July 2024

MCC logo.png

On 2 July 2024 the Supreme Court of NSW finalised proceedings that were commenced by Councillor Peter Epov against MidCoast Council and an external conduct reviewer in relation to a report prepared in May 2024 into a Code of Conduct complaint.

All parties agreed to the consent orders made by the Court. The orders invalidated the report provided to Council, which means Council can deal with the complaint afresh.

By agreeing to the consent orders the matter was finalised quickly, minimising Council’s costs.

Cr Epov’s costs are being paid for by the conduct reviewer.

At the time Cr Epov started court proceedings, Council had not made any decisions in respect of the reviewer’s May report, and undertook not to do so once the proceedings were started.

As such, media reports indicating that Cr Epov has been ‘censured’ by Council are completely incorrect.

Although no evidence or submissions were prepared for the purpose of the proceedings, given the early stage at which they were resolved, Council agreed to making a concession in the orders that the conduct reviewer’s May Report was affected by a ‘reasonable apprehension of bias’, due to a procedural matter, being that the conduct reviewer had determined a separate complaint about Cr Epov previously without notifying Cr Epov.

(Updated 12 July) The Council’s Procedures for the Administration of the Model Code of Conduct explain that a reasonable apprehension of bias arises ‘where a fair-minded lay observer might reasonably apprehend that the conduct reviewer might not bring an impartial and unprejudiced mind to the matter referred to the conduct reviewer’. The Procedures require a reviewer not to accept a referral where such an apprehension arises.

There is no suggestion that there was any actual bias on the part of the conduct reviewer as a result of the acceptance of the referral or in the content of the conduct reviewer’s May Report.

In response to statements in the media that ‘more than 300 staff members resigned in a 12 month period’, Council has also clarified that this is incorrect.

During 2022 a total of 221 staff left Council employment. This figure includes resignations, retirements, terminations, etc. During 2023 the number was 185.