Are Councillors Public Officers and do they create public records?

Councillors are elected officials, similar to Ministers of Parliament. They are not employed by the council, even though they receive an allowance from council.

This means that councillors are not employed by a public office close public office Definition Any department, agency or office of the government of Victoria. and are therefore not public officers as defined by the Public Records Act 1973 s2.

Documents made or received by councillors are not public records (regardless of the content) unless they are then received by an employee of the council.

 

When is a record created by a Councillor a Public Record?

While a councillor can make a recommendation or decision, they cannot act upon them. In order close order Definition Physical records can be ordered for viewing in PROV’s reading rooms.  When a user orders a record, it is reserved solely for their use. for the council to act, the councillor needs to communicate this recommendation or decision to a council officer. This communication, when received by a council officer (i.e. an employee of the council) is a public record.

Public records can be made in multiple ways, including by the councillor sending the record to a council employee or tendering it in a formal council meeting as the minutes of council meetings are public records.

 

What recordkeeping close recordkeeping Definition Making and maintaining complete, accurate and reliable evidence of business transactions in the form of recorded information. responsibilities do Councillors have?

Under the Local Government Act 1989 councillors have many governance and accountability responsibilities, including a requirement to manage confidential information appropriately.

Councillors should be made aware of what appropriate management of information means, including ensuring all records received (including email or social media posts) are passed to Council in accordance with council policy. Council should recommend that councillors manage their records with great care, and ensure that they are aware of issues of access, privacy, and security. Councillors should be advised to make and keep full and accurate records of their actions and decisions to demonstrate their probity and integrity.

Councillor records should be kept separate from the public records created, received and managed by the council. If the same EDRMS is being used, then it should be configured so that councillors do not have access close access Definition Refers either to the process of providing records for researchers to use in PROV reading rooms, or to the process of determining if records should or should not be withheld from researchers for a period of time. to the records used by the council and that the council do not have access to records used by councillors unless they become public records.

See Local Government page for more information.