CEO Code of Conduct Report Released

17 Apr 2024

City of Newcastle (CN) has proactively released the full independent Investigation Report into the CEO Code of Conduct Review, which cleared Jeremy Bath of alleged wrongdoing. 

The Code of Conduct investigation was undertaken by an independent Conduct Reviewer, Pinnacle Integrity, following a series of Newcastle Herald reports linking the CEO to letters submitted to the newspaper by his friend Scott Neylon. This prompted a Council resolution on 25 July 2023 and a request from the Minister for Local Government on 26 July 2023along with a complaint submitted by former Councillor Mr Bob Cook on 30 July 2023. 

The investigation was undertaken in line with the NSW Government's prescribed Procedure for Administration of the Code of Conduct, and considered allegations that the CEO provided confidential information to a friend for the purpose of writing letters to the editor, and or wrote letters to the editor under his friend's name. 

The investigation report details evidence from multiple parties. It found that the allegations against the CEO were not substantiated. 

In January 2024, CN proactively released a copy of the outcome letter, which is a summary of the investigation and its findings. 

Despite the Code of Conduct Procedures requiring all information to be treated as confidential and not publicly disclosed, the release of the full investigation report follows unprecedented leaking of confidential information related to the report by complainant Mr Cook, and extensive reporting on this information (on several occasions with significant error) by the Newcastle Herald.  

As a result of Mr Cook's repeated breaches of the Code of Conduct procedureCN has commenced the process to seek the consent of the Office of Local Government to restrict any future information regarding complaints being provided to Mr Cook.  

Separately, and following a formal request by CN, the Newcastle Herald has made corrections to its front page article dated 30 March 2024 'Probe Slammed a Sham', and published an 'Editors Note', given the significant and damaging inaccuracies in the story. 

CN is committed to the highest standards of integrity, transparency and procedural fairness. Consistent with the requirements of the GIPA Act, CN consulted with numerous third parties whose information was captured in the investigation report, prior to its proactive release. 

Statement attributable to Jeremy Bath: 

"I welcome the release of the full Pinnacle Integrity report into the independent investigation of a complaint against me lodged in July last year by Bob Cook. have at all times made myself available to the Conduct Reviewer, undertaking both verbal and written interviews 

"I provided my written support for the release of the full report by Pinnacle Integrity almost four months ago. I understand why securing the release of the report has taken time, given the NSW Government's model code of conduct policy makes a presumption against the release of the investigation report where no breach of the code has occurred. Releasing a report when the NSW Government's own procedure states that it should not occur, is legally complex and time consuming. 

"The report confirms what I have always said: I did not write letters to the Newcastle Herald published under the name of my friend Scott Neylon. 

"Herald journalist Donna Page has to date refused to reveal who provided her my and Scott Neylon's residential addresses recorded on the electoral roll. 

"It is a crime under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to provide a person's electoral roll details to a third person such as a journalist. I do not understand why Donna Page believes the public has a right to read the Pinnacle Integrity report clearing me of any wrongdoing, but doesn’t believe the readers should know the identity of the person who illegally accessed my home address on the electoral roll and how it was ultimately provided to her, and others. 

"I now have concerns that any person of voting age is at risk of having their home address and personal details on the electoral roll leaked to the Newcastle Herald. Donna Page has to date not disclosed this person’s identity, and therefore has prevented this person from having to explain his/her actions." 

Statement attributable to Pinnacle Integrity: 

"Pinnacle Integrity is an approved Conduct Reviewer for Councils across NSW. 

The Procedures legislated for Conduct Reviews in NSW are underpinned by this prescribed process and natural justice. Specifically, that means that every person subject of a complaint is rightly afforded the presumption of innocence. They are not required to prove their innocence.  To remove that right, or incite others to challenge that right, is manifestly inappropriate and is contrary to principles of law in Australia. 

The Reviewer's role is to establish the truth having regard to available evidence. It is a scrupulously objective, independent, and fair process. Conduct Reviewers do not; hold coercive legislative powers, interrogate witnesses, seize records, nor enforce participation in the process. Witnesses voluntarily participate in the process.  

The Review is neither prosecutorial nor it is an inquisition seeking to apportion guilt to validate a predetermined or preferred outcome. 

In this instance, there is a published prevailing view that our role ought to have been to prosecute a person subject of complaint to ratify a preferred finding. That is not, and will never be, our role. Our role is to assess available evidence, rather than rely on inference, assumptions, or inuendo.    

It is accepted that some parties will be disappointed or dissatisfied with the outcome of complaint inquiries. That is inevitable and unavoidable, but does not dictate or influence investigative outcomes. 

Whilst the procedural framework that underpins reviews might not satisfy those seeking a desired outcome, Conduct Reviewers remain bound by those Procedures. If there is a strongly held or political view that this process needs to change, then that is a matter for the Government of the day."  

The Investigation Report can be downloaded at CN's website.