The Beagle Editor, Class action Code of conduct complaint Eurobodalla Shire Council.
I wish to be associated with the above complaint being coordinated by you with the support of various concerned citizens.
In particular, I wish to expose the absolute hypocrisy and disdain for due process that was demonstrated by Mayor Liz Inness during the Council meeting of Tuesday 27 March 2018. That meeting witnessed the use of a Mayoral Minute in order to silence dissent over the matter of the 50-metre pool in Batemans Bay.
Our Town Our Say: 15 February 2018
Readers of The Beagle will be aware of your even-handed treatment of the outcomes of the “Our Town Our Say” public meeting convened at the Soldiers Club on 15 February 2018. You published the set of five resolutions (1 page) agreed by the attendees to be sent to Council. You also published a letter forwarded by the Mayor
and putting Council’s position on the matter of the 50-metre pool. That letter had already been tabled at the meeting.
I had expected that, with 120 concerned citizens having attended, including Councillor McGinlay, and that with the gravity of the resolutions, Council would have seen fit to place the issue on the agenda for its next meeting on 27 February.
On 21 February, noting that this had not occurred, and consistent with my role as MC for the public meeting, I posted a letter to the Mayor, from Malua Bay Post Office, summarising the meeting and attaching the resolutions. I stated that I would register to be included to speak at the Public Access Forum on 27 February and I sent
an email the same day, requesting that privilege.
Receiving no acknowledgment by Friday 23 February, I sent a second email requesting confirmation. On Monday 26 February acknowledgment was received and I also received a telephone call from the Executive Services Officer, claiming that my letter had not yet been received but confirming that I would
be scheduled first in the Public Access Forum. I was asked to confirm the matter on which I would speak. (Readers should note that there is no Council requirement for speakers to provide an advance copy of their address.)
I provided the requested detail, advised that I had already sent a letter to the Mayor on the matter and I asked to be allowed to record my address using my own digital voice recorder. Given the expected controversial nature of my remarks and the fact that the Public Access Forum is not live-streamed, that measure was intended to guard against any claims of misquoting others or indeed protecting myself against misquoting of my own remarks.
Meeting of Council – 27 February 2018
On 27 February at the Forum, the Mayor put my request for recording to a vote of councillors and it was lost. There had obviously been collusion with them during the briefing that precedes the Forum. It was somehow regarded as a dangerous precedent.
I delivered my address, using an additional 3 minutes of speaking time and was given a fair hearing. A written copy of my address was provided to councillors. You published an edited version and it was subsequently published on Council’s website in its entirety. That version included remarks upon which I was challenged by the Mayor and which I withdrew, so those particular remarks have been on the public record for more than a month. I suspect ineptitude on the part of support staff, rather than a quest for accuracy or transparency on the part of Council.
The full address may be found here:
Meeting with BBIACC – 5 March 2018
On 5 March, the Fight for Batemans Bay’s 50m Pool team attended an open meeting convened by the Batemans Bay Indoor Aquatic Centre Committee (BBIACC). It was hoped to be able to ask questions of Director Lindsay Usher, as he had been named as a guest speaker. He was ill prepared for the question that I posed on the Otium Report, therefore no answer was received. The meeting was unruly, in part because the Mayor also attended, usurping the role of Carolyn Harding as chair, and in part because many of the attendees were dissatisfied with the Mayor’s answers to other questions. Admittedly, one of the more vociferous questioners belonged to the Fight for Batemans Bay’s 50m Pool team.
I wrote the Mayor a 7-page letter on 9 March, regretting the fact that some remarks made by some attendees had been intemperate but also pointing out that her presence and her tendency to try and dominate the proceedings contributed to the outcome. I personally delivered and emailed that letter to Council headquarters that day.
In the same letter, I posed 17 specific questions relating to the Mackay Park development, in particular, focussing on the proposed demolition of the existing 50-metre pool. Included with that letter were copies of 15 communications from local organisations who did not support replacement of the 50-metre pool with a 25-metre
pool, many of whom were not originally consulted by Council on that possibility.
I can provide a copy of that letter. No reply has been received.
Meeting with Andrew Constance MP – 16 March 2018
At a morning meeting with Minister Andrew Constance MP in Council offices on 16 March, the Fight for Batemans Bay’s 50m Pool team and other swimming representatives were assured that he would convey our persistent concerns to the Council Executive during a meeting scheduled for the same afternoon. He made it crystal clear that the NSW government did not wish to see any of the requested funding delayed (as we had suggested, pending a better examination of process). He made it quite clear that the NSW Government wanted the Mackay Park redevelopment well underway before the next state elections, fearing that the NSW
Opposition would halt or reverse the project. A not unreasonable approach, we
thought. A copy of the briefing, prepared for Minister Constance, is attached below.
Meeting with Council Executives – 21 March 2018
In a further meeting at the Batemans Bay Community Centre on Wednesday 21 March, with Mayor Innes, Dr Dale and Directors Usher, Sharpe and Arthur present, we asked about my letter of 9 March and we also asked if there had been any relevant discussions during their meeting with Minister Constance on the previous Friday.
On the former, we were assured that a response would be forthcoming, within a week or so. On the latter, a range of smug and blank looks was received and we were advised that lunch was the only outcome of their meeting.
Funding Announcements – 26 March 2018
Given Council’s subsequent formal preparations for the whistle-stop tour, meet-and-greet at the Soldiers Club and significant funding announcements made by the NSW Premier and Minister Constance on Monday 26 March, only the most gullible amongst us would believe that the Mackay Park issue was not discussed at the meeting between Council Executives and Minister Constance on Friday 16 March and that a final resolution of the 50-metre pool dispute was not also aired or proposed.
As Albert Einstein once said: “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”
Finally, a Response to the Our Town Our Say meeting On Good Friday 30 March, after 27 business days, I received an email from the Mayor’s office attaching her reply to my letter of 21 February. In the light of what occurred within Council on 27 March, this letter demonstrates the Mayor’s absolute hypocrisy and disdain for due process.
How well does this audacious and disingenuous excuse sit with her decision to ambush Council on the morning of Tuesday 27 March 2018 with her Mayoral Report and her Mayoral Minute?
How did our poor councillors cope with the “less than one-day turnaround” on 27 March, when they had 15 densely-typed pages to read in 15 minutes and then vote on, compared to one page of resolutions they should have received from me on behalf of “Our Town Our Say” on 26 February (according to the Mayor)?
Did they all suddenly morph into speedreaders?
Why was the Mayoral Minute so urgent and why wasn’t the vote deferred, allowing councillors to take time to ensure they were across the issues raised?
What arrangements were made with Minister Constance to sweep our concerns under the respective government carpets?
Did Minister Constance deliberately mislead us at our meeting on 16 March?
Did Council Executives lie to us during our meeting of 21 March, by stating that resolution of the 50-metre pool issue had not been discussed during their meeting with Minister Constance on 16 March and that lunch was the only outcome?
I note that councillors McGinlay and Mayne did express disquiet about the Mayoral Minute process, however the remainder of councillors present at the meeting on 27th March became willing accomplices to a dishonourable act. It has deepened the existing gulf of distrust and disrespect that now sits between our Council and the community that it was elected to represent.
The words disgust, despair, disbelief, distrust and disrespect do not even come close to describing my feelings on that travesty of process and integrity - and possible misconduct on the part of Council. I hope that your careful examination of the Code of Conduct lays bare the proper process.
I expect that you will include relevant parts of this submission in your Code of Conduct complaint. I grant permission for you to accurately quote any parts of it and of the accompanying letter.
Jonathan (John) D. Mobbs Attachment 1
MEETING 1030 HRS FRIDAY 16 MARCH 2018
GLASS MEETING ROOM – ESC BUILDING, VULCAN ST, MORUYA
Local Attendees: Coral Anderson, Maureen Searson, Peter Coggan, John Mobbs (Fight for Batemans Bays 50m Pool team), Jeni McCarthy (President Batemans Bay Swimming Club), Rod Bradley (President Eurocoast Triathlon
Club), Karyn Starmer (Vice President Moruya Surf Life Saving Club, ABC Journalist)
1) Eurobodalla Shire Council (ESC) has applied for $46.3 million in grants to fund the building of an Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre at Mackay Park, Batemans Bay. The funding break-up is: Australian Govt: $10 m / NSW Govt: $36.3m
2) The 2017 concept plan for this involves removal of the existing 50-metre outdoor heated pool, to be replaced by a 25-metre indoor, heated pool.
3) In limited consultations with some community organisations to promote the development, ESC withheld the fact that the 50-metre pool would be removed. When that was revealed, many, if not most organisations indicating support for the new facility, withdrew that support. There is now significant and growing community opposition to the removal of our 50- metre pool.
4) ESC, if not totally deaf to this opposition, is certainly stubborn and indifferent to it. Despite a well-attended public meeting on 15 February, public presentations at meetings of Council plus letters in the press and online, ESC refuses to respond and even consider alternatives, thus ignoring true democratic process.
5) Attempting to justify its stance that Batemans Bay cannot “afford or justify” a 50m pool in the new facility, ESC has repeatedly refused to provide information contained in the following key reports:
- Quantity Surveyors Report by Turner & Townsend; and
- Structural Audit Report, by Brown Consulting (now Calibre Consulting).
The Fight For Batemans Bay’s 50-metre pool team has requested this information to check the veracity of the Mayor’s claims that the existing pool is too old, outdated and in need of replacement. She will not replace it!
6) We believe that NSW Govt funding should be withheld for this development until ESC has done more work to:
- examine the feasibility of retaining and refurbishing the existing pool; - complete more comprehensive and inclusive community consultations;
- justify its claims regarding the condition of the existing pool;
- provide detailed comparative costings for 25 & 50-metre indoor heated pools plus an alternative of retaining the existing outdoor pool with the proposed indoor 25-metre pool.
7) According to preliminary enquiries, an up to date, full and thorough structural engineering report to be carried out on the Batemans Bay pool (by a locally based structural engineering firm) would cost in the vicinity of $8,000 to $10,000.
LOCAL ORGANISATIONS THAT HAVE PROVIDED WRITTEN SUPPORT FOR RETENTION OF THE EXISTING 50-METRE POOL.
1 Batemans Bay Swimming Club 23/8/2017
2 St Bernard’s Primary School 12/9/2017
3 Peter Cormick 21/9/2017
4 Maggie Cooper 27/9/2017
5 CEO, Batemans bay Soldiers Club 28/9/2017
6 CEO Odonata Endeavour College – Academic Lecturer
7 Mogo Public School 27/10/2017
8 Principal, St Peter’s Anglican College 30/10/2017
9 Eurobodalla Public Schools Sporting Association (representing 11 member schools and some 5,000 students)
10 Velma Blunt, Life Member, Moruya Swimming Club 6/9/2017
11 Elite Energy – Triathlon Hosts 9/11/2017
12 CWA Batemans Bay 8/11/2017
13 CEO, Swimming New South Wales 8/11/2017
14 Letters to the Editor – Roger Gribble & Jeff de Jager 9/11/2017
15 **Hutchinson Builders – Order of Indicative Costs 10/11/2017