Supreme Court Matter

Kiama Council

Council chambers Oct 2022

Kiama Municipal Council on 27 May received consent orders from Justice Rothman of the Supreme Court to conclude the case of Councillor Karen Renkema-Lang (Plaintiff) against Kiama Municipal Council (First Defendant) and Michael Symons of Anti-Corruption Consultants Australia (Second Defendant).

The Supreme Court orders confirm that Kiama Council’s Resolution 23/350OC to censure Cr Lang, made on 21 November 2023, is invalid and of no effect.

The resolution was declared invalid as Kiama Council and Mr Symons conceded that the independent report prepared by Mr Symons, which Kiama Councillors based their decision in Resolution 23/350OC on, was affected by a reasonable apprehension of bias, and therefore is invalid and of no effect.

Council processed the Code of Conduct complaint against Cr Lang (Plaintiff) in line with the NSW Government’s model procedure and Kiama Council’s endorsed Procedure for the Administration of the Code of Conduct. This is the way all Code of Conduct complaints against Councillors are processed.

Additionally, Council sought and acted upon the advice of the NSW Office of Local Government on several occasions during the processing of the complaint, specifically in relation to redactions, and the appointment of the independent investigator.

Unfortunately, Mr Symons and Council conceded that he developed apprehended bias in the process of compiling his report. For this reason, as ordered by the court, Council agreed to set aside the Council resolution at the 21 May ordinary meeting.

The court orders state “the First [Kiama Municipal Council] and Second Defendants [Symons] concede that the Second Defendant’s decision was affected by a reasonable apprehension of bias, is invalid and of no effect, and that it follows that the First Defendant’s Resolution is invalid and of no effect”.

Council notes the substantial costs associated with this litigation, in which Council was the defendant (and therefore obliged to participate). As reported in Kiama Council’s May Council meeting, legal costs (as at 30 March 2024) have already exceeded $400,000, and the total expenditure (from March to May) – likely to be substantially more – will be detailed in the July 2024 Council Meeting as invoices are finalised.

Council has been ordered to pay all costs (including the Plaintiff’s costs) in this matter. This is a heavy burden on the ratepayers of our Municipality, especially considering other cost-free options – such as lodgement of a rescission motion or requesting to appeal the censure by seeking a review through the NSW Office of Local Government – were not pursued by the Plaintiff.

/Public Release. View in full here.