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We've got your back - OLG to LG

Dear Beagle Editor, Late last year I wrote to Mr John Davies, Manager Council Governances of the Office of Local Government Nowra drawing his attention and seeking his advice in regards to concerns in procedures I held of the Extraordinary Meeting of the Eurobodalla Shire Council held on Tuesday 29th August 2017 item No. PSR17/050 Consideration of business cases and concept plan options for Mackay Park Precinct redevelopment. To begin I reminded Mr Davies that it states clearly in the Councils Code of Meeting Practice – 5/8 Agenda for Extraordinary Meeting that the General Manager must ensure that the agenda for an Extraordinary Meeting of Council deals with the matters stated in the notice of the meeting.

There were 5 RECOMMENDATIONS on Page 5 of the published agenda During the meeting Councillor Pollock stated a REVISION TO CLAUSE 5 that Council make a decision on the potential demolition of the Batemans Bay Club building once a decision on the development of Mackay Park Precinct was mad. This was not a REVISION this was a NEW RECOMMENDATION – Councils original POINT 5 became POINT 6 and there was never a POINT 6 in the original document that was displayed.

I advised Mr Davis that I believe this meeting was FLAWED given that there was not an opportunity for the community to speak in Public Forum on this NEW RECOMMENDATION made by Councillor Pollock and it is clearly stated that the agenda for an Extraordinary Meeting deals with the matters stated in the notice of the meeting.

In the Council Code of Meeting Practice (2) states only the mover of a Motion referred to in clause 5/9(1) can speak to the motion before it is put, I believe that Councillor Pollock was not the only Councillor who spoke on this motion.

Can you please investigate this issue. Well Mr Davis investigated and this is his response.

In receipt of the above response I wrote back to Mr John Davies, Manager Council Governances of the Office of Local Government Nowra

Thank you for your letter dated 14th September 2017, whilst I acknowledge that the public were given the opportunity to speak at the Special Meeting 29th August 2017 of the Eurobodalla Shire Council we were not privy to Mr Rob Pollock’s addition clause to the motion until he added it after public forum. Sir, we are not “mind readers”. Could you please tell me how we were given the opportunity to speak on this clause given the fact that it was added to the motion after Public Forum?

The purchase of this property has been very controversial. Now an additional clause to demolish this property, without any consultation with the community, is extremely concerning and where is the TRANSPARENCY?

Also I would like to draw your attention to an issue which has risen where staff have introduced through the Council’s Notice Board a 20 page procedure involving “Customer” without the knowledge or approval of the Councillor’s of this shire and I ask that you investigate this issue. When asked about this issue in a previous letter Mr Davis had simply replied:

Readers of the Beagle are well aware of the litany of errors that Council have made in the last year in regards to reports, agendas and minutes. Many of these errors are considerable requiring redress from Council as a result of very informed ratepayers advising the Office of Local Government of the continuing "stuff-ups". The Office of Local Government might choose to respond with their black and white, tick boxed answers in regards to procedural errors, rarely choosing to consider any "breach" as severe. They have certainly proved themselves to be quite "motherly" with any determination of many Codes of Conduct that have come before them raised in the last 12 months within the Eurobodalla and they appear to be indifferent to the file that is building that clearly indicates that the ratepayers of Eurobodalla are not at all pleased with the way its council operates nor how it conducts its business within the grey zone interpretation of what should in fact be black and white. It continues to appear that the OLG is less of a watchdog of Local Government than we might expect and that the role they play in best representing the community is reluctant at most preferring to be key advisers up the line to the NSW Government on Local Government matters. On their website the OLG state: The Office’s organisational purpose is to ‘Strengthen Local Government’ and its organisational outcome is ‘Fit for the future councils leading strong communities’. It appears that our Eurobodalla ratepayer opinion of systemic and serious deficiencies in council functions and operations and serious non compliance with the Act and regulations simply aren't serious enough or systemic enough to be of much concern the OLG.What will it take ? An ICAC report. Yes, we have one of those currently pending as well. What has 2018 got in store? Will Council continue to push the limits knowing that the Office of Local Government (more frequently called the "Cupboard of Local Government" following funding cuts) "has its back". Trish Hellier