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Councillor's views and attendances


The Editor,

It’s a pity our Councillors may have already allowed themselves to be effectively gagged by their own policy, that sees the delivery of communication from Council channeled through a media section, whose language is most likely not the same as that used by those elected to represent the shire’s residents generally. The voice to the people that the Councillor had wanted is now all but lost. Council's media policy also reminds Councillors to "support council decisions and refrain from using the media to make negative personal comments which are likely to undermine public confidence in the council or local government generally." but offers; "As members of the community, councillors are entitled to enter into public debate in their private capacity and make comment on council affairs provided they clearly state that such public comment reflects their personal opinion and not that of the council or a committee of the council." What if a Councillor is dissatisfied with a Council decision or upcoming recommendation? Will they be allowed to say, in the media, why they might disagree. An example might be making public comment on specific changes to the LEP, or to Council's Sea Level Rise Policy or to the Eurobodalla Bio-Diversity Policy, as was the case with the previous Council. There were Councillors who clearly did not "support council decisions" and used the media to clearly say they did not support the decisions offering their reasoning. Councillors are elected by the shire’s residents; not the council bureaucracy; and are expected to be able to communicate openly and honestly with the residents of the shire without fears of persecution. Speaking openly and honestly is not a crime, councillors. Another issue that will have to be dealt with in this term of new Councillors will be their attendance record of meetings. The Eurobodalla Council Code of meeting Practice policy advises them of their commitment and says in simple terms: A civic office becomes vacant if you die, or resign the office by writing addressed to the general manager, or are disqualified from holding civic office, or is absent from 3 consecutive ordinary meetings of the council (unless the holder is absent because he or she has been suspended from office under this Act or because the council has been suspended under this Act) without: (i) prior leave of the council, or (ii) leave granted by the council at any of the meetings concerned, or (e) becomes bankrupt, applies to take the benefit of any law for the relief of bankrupt or insolvent debtors, compounds with his or her creditors or makes an assignment of his or her remuneration for their benefit, or (f) becomes a mentally incapacitated person, or (g) is dismissed from civic office, or (h) ceases to hold the office for any other reason. The Eurobodalla Council Code of Meeting Practice policy also says "A request for leave of absence by a councillor from a meeting should be made in writing to the General Manager. The written request should state the dates of the meetings the councillor is expected to be absent, together with the reasons for absence. Councillor leave of absence may be granted at the discretion of Council." A question is now forming by those who watch Council; "What happens if the Council don't accept the reason. Will the reason be publicly stated so that the community can run "the reason" by the Pub Test?" It is already anticipated that there will be many missed meetings over the next four years due to Councillors having "other commitments". With openness there might be more of a guarantee that approval for "the reason" is determined and delivered equitably and meets community expectations. contributed copy name and address supplied


#Opinion

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