Eurobodalla residents have formally raised questions about Councillors making false declarations to the Electoral Commission. Read on and you will find in the Letter to the Editor from the Bega Valley Residents and Ratepayers Association that the issue crosses Shire boundaries and the same indifferent response from both the Office of Local Government and the NSW Electoral Commission also leaves Bega ratepayers and voters disgusted. Dear Beagle Editor and Beagle readers, Bad Faith …
Bega Valley Shire councillors’ latest contribution to the community came last week in the form of a letter to the editor of our local newspapers, replete with wonderfully ironic clichés such as “we are getting on with it” & “governing for the greater good”, along with self-serving assertions like “we put our hands up for the job” & “all current councillors have the community’s best interest at heart”.
The Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) rejects the claim by councillors that they are “representing the community”, given that they only respond to submissions from developers or other “friends” of the Zingel Place regime, while routinely ignoring most everyone else.
The readiness of councillors to ignore submissions without consideration is evidence enough of their determination to listen only to voices they want to hear, which surely goes a long way to explaining why there is such widespread contempt for the organisation.
That councillors would have the community believe that, with the exception of Greens’ Cr Cathy Griff, they are all “independent” is also both laughable & offensive.
While the BVSRRA does not dispute council’s claim that Cr Griff was the only candidate “endorsed” by a political party & elected at last September’s council election, the suggestion that the rest have no political loyalties or affiliations is entirely false.
Claims that councillors don’t vote “on party political lines” or otherwise use council meetings as a platform to push their own interests are patently absurd, as has been repeatedly demonstrated by a number of councillors.
But it’s not just about party endorsements: the fact is that every candidate nominating for election was obliged to make a statutory declaration disclosing membership of any political party. This requirement obviously arose from the common-sense recognition that a member of a political party who is a candidate is most likely to take positions on council consistent with the views of that party.
So, what are the facts?
Well, there were 26 candidates who nominated for election to council last September.
Of those candidates, two were endorsed by registered political parties, while four others declared membership of the Liberal Party.
With nine of the 26 candidates elected, one had been endorsed by a registered political party, two others had declared membership of the Liberal Party while the remainder had declared that they were not members of a registered political party.
Notwithstanding the above, the BVSRRA has it on good authority that at least one councillor did not declare their membership of a political party when they nominated as a candidate for council.
When the BVSRRA contacted the NSW Electoral Commission about allegations that false declarations had been made, they helpfully suggested that it wasn’t their concern & that the matter should be referred to the Office of Local Government.
For its part, the Office of Local Government also ‘pleaded insanity’ & promptly suggested that the matter should be referred to the NSW Police as a possible breach of the NSW Oaths Act, penalties for which can result in a gaol sentence of up to five years or fines of up to $5,000.
Of course, the fact that neither the NSW Electoral Commission nor the Office of Local Government were interested in acting to protect our democratic processes might well explain why some candidates would think it acceptable to deceive our community.
And if they were prepared to engage in that deception, the community is surely entitled to wonder what else they might be prepared to do. John Richardson Secretary/Treasurer Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association