Once again the absence of the Mayor from the Council's Public Access session was evident but not missed as, once again, it was ably chaired by Deputy Mayor Rob Pollock. It has not gone unnoticed that the Mayor then attended the Briefing session directly following the Public Access session. That in itself has been seen as a rarity as she fast approaches the end of her era in local politics.
Today's was the last Public Access session in the current term of this Council that gave the public a final opportunity to have their say to the School of 2016 as they approach the September 4th local government elections. With the Mayor already stating she won't be standing again it is understandable that she has slipped from the limelight and photo shoots, and therefore removed form any further risk of hoisting herself by her own petard that might add further to the gruntle that the Innes Era has gained for itself. With only three speakers today those councillors keen on standing again made use of the occasion to grandstand themselves. The first was Clr Tait who waffled on about affordable housing as if he was electioneering rather than asking the presented, Mathew Findlay, a question. The next encounter was nearly a tribute question by Clr Lindsay Brown to the absent Maureen Nathan (who will be fondly remembered for her questions that start with "are you aware...?") Clr Lindsay Brown took a risk in asking A Better Eurobodalla co-convenor, Bernie O'Neil a question on her presentation by asking a question specifically aimed at Ms O'Neil's statement that "ABE believes that there is an overuse of confidentiality provisions that must be reviewed by our next Council." His question "Have you read the Local Government Act?" was asked in a snardly fashion, designed to denigrate and belittle the presenter with the insinuation that he had, and she apparently had not. He then pontificated by quoting two sections of the Act (664 1A and Model Code 7.9 and 7.10) suggesting that Ms O'Neil was putting the case that she wanted everything to be open and transparent. By doing so, it appears that he has made a goose of himself. Ms O'Neil was clear in her presentation that ABE believes the current term of Council had overused Confidentiality Provisions. This overuse is often referred to in the community and has been the hurdle faced by many who have sought explanation and details only to be advised by "Confidential Catherine" (Dr Catherine Dale, ESC General Manager) that the information sought is "Commercial in Confidence". Lindsay Brown quoted 664 1A that had no relevance at all to the suggestion of Overuse. 664.(1A) In particular, if part of a meeting of a council or a committee of a council is closed to the public in accordance with section 10A(1), a person must not, without the authority of the council or the committee, disclose (otherwise than to the council or a councillor of the council) information with respect to the discussion at, or the business of, the meeting. He also quoted the Model Code 7.9 and 7.10 as if they too had relevance. Possibly he should have done his homework because the revised Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils in NSW adopted by Eurobodalla Council doesn't have a section 7.9 or 7.10 The last use of 7.9 and 7.10 was in the 2008 version 7.9 You must also take all reasonable steps to ensure that your immediate family members do not receive gifts or benefits that could appear to an impartial observer to be an attempt to influence or secure a favour. Immediate family members ordinarily include parents, spouses, children and siblings. 7.10 Councillors and designated persons must by law disclose a description of any gift or gifts totalling a value exceeding $500 made by the same person during a period of 12 months or less. (required to be included in the disclosure of interests returns – section 449) No doubt, and observing such a failure, Ms O'Neil was polite enough not to respond "Have you read Council's adopted Model Code of Conduct you refer to Councillor Brown?" It would be a shame to see the final Public Access session go by without a Beagle Presentation. You can read it HERE