Welcome to this week’s editorial, A warning to editorial readers that this weeks is once again political. We are more than pleased though with the many emails and messages that we are receiving thanking The Beagle for actually putting a spot light on Council and revealing things that would have otherwise remained unknown or unexposed. Oh what a tangled web we weave….. Council live streams its meetings. They are also recorded and available on the Council website for review. Last Tuesday’s meeting saw a Mayoral Minute announced. It wasn’t on the agenda so no one knew what it was about. It just appeared. Obviously it was important because… it was a Mayoral Minute to be dealt with at the start of the meeting before all other business. Those in the public gallery slid forward on their seats in anticipation… some text was projected onto the screen. From the public gallery it looked like this: THAT: 1. The resolutions made in the confidential sessions for this council term be included in the public minutes. 2. Names and addresses to be redacted from the resolutions prior to being made public. The Mayor then spoke: “Councillors, before you we have a mayoral report MR 17/006 and there are some recommendations there. Councillors are there any questions or debate? Long silence….. “if not I put the motion” Those in favour? (Councllors Pollock, Constable, Tait, Thomson, Mayne and Brown all raised their hands.) That was it … over. So what were these recommendations and why didn’t the Mayor offer a preamble for those watching via live streaming or in the gallery? The Beagle requested a copy of the Mayoral Minute and the recommendations. In a nutshell: Council’s practice, over many years, has been to prepare two separate set of minutes to reflect open session of Council and closed session of Council. Advice from the Office of Local Government (OLG), received Monday 24 July 2017, indicated that this long standing practice is incorrect. One of the recommendations the Mayor didn’t bother reading or advising anyone watching was that the resolutions made in the confidential sessions for this council term be included in the public minutes. So, what we saw was Council having to admit that the Office of Local Government (OLG) just gave them a big rap on the knuckles for what Council did after it went into Confidential against the wishes and advice of three public speakers in the gallery. Another rap on the knuckles was dealt out to Council regarding the agenda of that day that listed two Confidential matters with NO description at all of their subject. The OLG, in relation to public concerns that Council omitted to indicate the nature of the items listed on the agenda as CON17/002 and CON17/003, as required by section 9(2A)(a) of the Act wrote to the Council requesting it to review its practices in relation to the description of agenda items to be discussed in closed council meetings.
What were these two very confidential matters? The Beagle has learn that the directive of the OLG is that the full resolution adopted by the Council in the closed part of the Council's meeting must be recorded in the open minutes of that meeting. So in due course we will learn—The Beagle knows already but let’s hear it from Council and what they do and how they do it from this point on will be very much in the public domain. It is interesting to note that the Mayor added in her report in regard to Council’s failing “Notwithstanding it has been a practice in many local councils.” In the coming week we will learn more of what happened behind the closed door of those “Not so Confidential” matters and learn that Council might well have breached a few more sections of the Local Government Act where the response “Notwithstanding it has been a practice in many local councils” isn’t washing under the close independent investigation these breaches deserve and the correspondence held. This week we came across a present councillor's comment to an assertion by a ratepayer that councillors and some staff have become very dictatorial . His response was “Councillors and mayors operate as they see fit and have to answer to the community and the community will get to decide in 2020.” It is reassuring that the Office of Local Government thinks otherwise.