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Guilty until proven guilty

Dear Beagle Editor,

Please allow me to share with your readers the response I received from Council in regards to my questions relating to Mr Joe Potts of Narooma and the recent fiasco that played out in the Council Chambers which saw him being asked to leave: Council's response dated Dec 18th, Thank you for your email of 4 December 2017 with regard to when the resolution of Council was made to ban Mr Joe Potts from the chamber pending an apology. The Mayor has referred your enquiry to me and in response I provide the following. There is no reference under the Local Government Act 1993 regarding members from the public addressing councillors at a Council meeting. Under section 5.10 of Council's Code of Meeting Practice, Council actively encourages participation of residents in the decision-forming process and hearing from people regarding matters raised in the business paper. Council makes provisions for members of the public to address Council at its meetings as set out in the Code of Meeting Practice. At the Council meeting of 23 July 2013 Minute No. PF13/23 (copy below) states in part 'at the conclusion of Mr Potts' address to Council, Council Thomson advised that he wished to lodge a formal complaint against Mr Potts. Councillor Thomson stated that after the presentation Mr Potts had accosted him by deliberately bumping him and said "Any more smart comments from you and I will have you". Councillor Thomson asked that Mr Potts be banned from this chamber and demanded a public apology from Mr Potts.'

Council wrote to Mr Potts on 9 September 2013 requesting an apology to Council generally and Councillor Fergus Thomson before he was allowed to speak at a Council meeting. Under section 5.10 (16) Council's Code of Meetings Practice states: 'If a presenter is asked to withdraw and/or apologise for comments or behaviour and refuses to do so, the Chairperson may expel them from the meeting, and the presenter will not be able to address Council until an apology has been mode. For a presenter to be allowed to present again they must first apologise at a Council meeting, however will not be able to present of the same meeting.' As stated, there is no reference under the Local Government Act 1993 for the Public to address councillors at a Council meeting therefore, no requirement for a Council resolution banning a presenter speaking at a Council meeting for inappropriate behaviour. The Chairperson has been delegated this authority under Council's Code of Meeting Practice (adopted at the 12 September 2017 Council meeting — Minute Number ** 17/294). I trust this answers your enquiry. WELL NO, it doesn't As clearly stated by Joe Potts: "Finally on the last meeting of September 2013 I decided after my presentation that this was it. I shall never front again. The meeting was adjourned and I went down to the seated Councilor who was conversing with the Secretary and tapped him on the shoulder gently and whispered in his ear that "I did not appreciate his half-smart remarks" "No one could have overheard my comments and I got up of my seat adjacent to the said Councillor and quietly left the Chamber, hopefully never to return. "Unfortunately this was not to be as about six months ago the Motion of Censure was brought to my notice thus motivating me along with the UFO to front Council at some time in the near or distant future." "In fact if ,as I explained to the Mayor, should I apologise then that would be tantamount to admitting the veracity and truth of what the was stated in the Minute.

Council was on the day of the opinion that they had the authority to ask Mr Potts to leave the ‘meeting’ ie the chambers; later advising however that he could have sat outside in the foyer.

When questioned by phone today about the unfair ‘trial’ process that has Mr Potts, being adamant he didn’t say what he is accused Vs the Councillor who made the claim ( and not able to be questioned nor providing any witness) I asked "what recourse is available to Mr Potts?" I was advised that Council have now advised that Mr Potts to write a letter defending himself. Defending himself of what? A false claim? An unwitnessed bump? It is well known that there was tension between Thomson and Potts and Council and Potts. The very possibility of a vexatious accusation stands however Councillor Thomson is not able to be questioned and the rest is simply the word of Mr Potts which is in conflict because of the way the minutes were taken. The shorthand notes of the day would make very interesting reading, especially in regards to the timeline of when the minute was made. In the words of Mr Potts: "It read more like a "verballing"; .in police-drama terms?" "deliberately bumping him and said "Any more smart comments from you and I will have you". Council were also asked today : "What happens then, who would adjudicate, preside over the hearing (referring to the legal process ‘innocent till proven guilty’)? The answer came back from the staff member "Don’t know’, maybe the General Manager would deal with it……."

Above: Judge and Jury ?

Name and address supplied

** Note: 17/294 MOTION Councillor Pollock/Councillor Thomson THAT Council extend the current Code of Meeting Practice until such time as the Model Code of Meeting Practice is released, reviewed and incorporated.

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