Is Council making up their own rules to close down public forum questions from councillors
If you ever decide to present to Council be sure to do it as an individual and not as the spokesperson for a group. Maybe your street is sick of having potholes. Maybe your neighbourhood is fed up with the state of the local park or public toilet block. You might be part of a group of mums protesting the condition of playground equipment and soft fall. Or, as was the case this morning, a spokesperson for a group of Tuross Head residents who are mounting a challenge to modifications of a forty year old Development Application that Council appears hell bent on allowing. This morning's Zoom Public Access was surprisingly chaired by Liz Innes who has been absent from the public eye for some time leaving the chairing of Public Access and Public Forum sessions to her deputy mayor. The possible backlash across social media asking "Where's Liz" may have spurred her to make an appearance. Surprising also was that all of the other Councillors managed to attend the session as well. There must be an election in the air. Today saw only one presenter, Mr Simon Cox. You can read his presentation HERE Council's Code of Meeting Practice states: 3.15 A Councillor (including the Chairperson) may, through the Chairperson, ask questions of a speaker following their address at a public forum. Questions put to Code Code of Meeting Practice a speaker must be direct, succinct and without argument
Council's advice to presenters states:
Today, as she has done on several occasions, the General Manager butted in when the chair asked Councillors if they had any questions of the speaker reminding the chair that because the speaker was a "representing a group" he was not able to be questioned.
AUDIO: Public Access Presentation to Eurobodalla Council Date: August 17th 2021 by
Simon Cox - Modifications to Coila DA
Being an avid watcher of Council public forums it appears that this ruling is only applied when it suits. In past Public Forum and Public Access sessions the following presenters, representing a group, were allowed to have questions asked: Brett Stevenson from A Better Eurobodalla David Grace from Eurobodalla Labor Coral Anderson from Our Council Our Say Cathy Millikin from Tuross Head Progress Association Max Castle from the Recreational Fishing Alliance Andrew Bain from the Broulee Mossy Point Community Association Kevin Shepherd from Batemans Bay SES The following email has been sent to Mr Jeff Phillips, Corporate Manager Governance and Administrative Services, the General Manager, Dr Catherine Dale and councilors: Dr Dale and councilors, Today, August 17th 2021, the General Manager reminded the chair, during the Public Access session that the speaker, Mr Simon Cox could not take questions from councillors as he was "representing a group". This reminder by the General Manager has been made on several occasions during Public Access and Public Forum sessions during the term of this council. Can you please advise exactly where this ruling can be found and advise exactly when this ruling was adopted by Council as I am hard pressed to find it anywhere and the OLG are equally unable to find it in their Code of Meeting Practice guidelines. Of concern is that the ruling, if there is one, is inconsistently applied, and from my search of Council's policies, baseless. It is of interest that I have witnessed it being more often applied to speakers who challenge Council rather than those who bring with them gifts and accolades. I look forward to your timely advice as the next Public Forum session is on 24 August 2021.
VIDEO: Simon Cox post the presentation at Council Public Access 17th Aug 2021