To ensure efficient and effective use of Council’s administrative resources, City of Mount Gambier has adopted an Unreasonable Conduct Policy to manage the disproportionate diversion of resources when dealing with customers who display unreasonable conduct.
The policy is based on the South Australian Ombudsman’s model policy where unreasonable conduct is defined as any behaviour by a current or former customer which, because of its nature or frequency raises substantial health, safety, resource or equity issues for Council staff, other service users and customers or the customer themselves.
City of Mount Gambier Acting CEO Barbara Cernovskis said Council is committed to being accessible and responsive to all customers who approach the office for assistance, service or with a complaint.
“However, in a very small number of cases some customers behave in ways that are inappropriate and unacceptable, despite our best efforts to help them. They can be aggressive and verbally abusive towards our staff. They may threaten harm and violence, bombard our offices with unnecessary and excessive phone calls and emails, make inappropriate demands on our time and our resources and refuse to accept our decisions and recommendations in relation to their matters of concern,” Ms Cernovskis said.
The Acting CEO said the policy provisions will have no impact on most customers who engage with Council in a reasonable and responsible manner.
“The intent of the policy is to protect our staff from unreasonable persistence, demands, lack of cooperation, arguments and behaviours. It is not about restricting people’s right to have a say.”
“Council resources are community resources and when staff are diverted from their roles, priorities and objectives and spending a disproportionate amount of time on unreasonable requests, it is not in the best interests of the community,” Ms Cernovskis said.
Those found to be in breach of the policy may have access to Council services restricted.
“It is important to note that the provisions of the Unreasonable Conduct Policy, particularly those that restrict service, are to be applied as a matter of last resort where a customer does not alter their own conduct following a written warning that such conduct is unreasonable.”
“Implementation of the policy will occur on a case by case basis directly with the individuals involved. The five-step process includes potentially limiting who they have contact with, the subject matter of communications, the frequency of contact, where they make contact and how they make contact.”
Alternative dispute resolution strategies to manage conflict/s with customers will be explored, such as mediation and conciliation procedures.
“In rare cases, and as a last resort when all other strategies have been considered and/or attempted, Council may decide that it is necessary to completely restrict a customer’s contact/access to services.”
“A decision to have no further contact with a customer will only be made if it appears that the customer is unlikely to modify their conduct and/or their conduct poses a significant risk for our staff or other parties,” Ms Cernovskis said.
Council will review all active and closed cases associated with the policy each quarter.
“A confidential report will be presented to Council to ensure oversight and the correct application of the policy.”