Investigations continue into the alleged "whisle blower" activity by one or more of Eurobodalla Council's nine councillors after the winning tenderer for the Mackay Park project was revealed, a full two weeks after the vote had been taken. During voting for the winning tenderer, three of the nine councillors voted against. The vote was not only to determine the winning tenderer but to also endorse Council spending a further $15 million from its own funding to bolster up the $55 million they had in grants and loans. The $15 million spend was to be endorsed by announcing the tenderer and this made three of the nine councillors very uncomfortable as they would be committing the community to a long term financial burden with little if any knowledge of where the Council was to raise the funding from internally, and at what cost to other cost centres. The winning tenderer was agreed to remain a secret until Council was ready to announce citing "commercial in confidence" as is now comically the case in how Council ensures their processes remain secret and away from public scrutiny. But on to the latest in the Eurobodalla "SnitchGate" Two weeks after the voting on the winning tenderer the council had still not publicly announced the winner of the $70 million project. Fed up with the secrecy a member of the public rang the four tenderers shortlisted in Council's own business papers and asked. They didn't purport to be anyone - they just asked "Did you win the tender for the Batemans Bay Mackay Park?" The winning tenderer responded with a Yes, another with a No and two others responded saying they had not yet been advised. Very simple. But will the Council who initiated the $10,000 investigation be happy with that as an answer to exonerate their councillors under suspicion of leaking? It appears not. While the report will most likely come back that the discovery of the winning tenderer was via a phone call made by the member of the public to each of four tenderers listed in Council's own business paper it is more than likely that Council will spin this saying "Because there is no evidence that the phone calls were made most likely it was a councillor (one of the three dissenters no doubt) that leaked and the story of the phone calls is simply a cover up." Council most likely now would like the whole thing to pass however the Eurobodalla "SnitchGate" has left a very bitter taste in the mouths of both councillors and members of the public who are now following the investigation. As the investigation required Councillors to hand in their laptops, ipads and phones to be trawled through for any evidence of a leak it is not at all surprising that Councillors are now advising members of the public to use other means of communication with them if they have an issue they want to discuss that they do not want Council staff to be aware of. One councillor has even publicly advised residents and ratepayers Councilor Pat McGinlay posted the following comment in the Beagle in response to an editorial around trust, process and the role of councillors. "If I may, regarding your editorial and the subject of communications with councillors and also the council bureaucracy.
"Firstly, as Basil would have said, “Don’t mention the alleged ‘Investigation’ “. That unsaid, I can understand that some members of the community might also, at present be reluctant to communicate frankly and on the record with Councillors.
"That is a bit of a shame really, as I always encourage community members with regard to any Council matters to openly address any emailed request or communication to firstname.lastname@example.org on the primary address line and then cc in any councillor/s or particular staff members that they want to be aware of their communication. Using this approach ENSURES that their communication is automatically registered on Councils record management system, and (in theory), should ensure an official (on the record) response within 10 working days.
"Having said that this is what I encourage and recommend, I am aware that some community members may wish to talk to a councillor ‘off the record’ and do not wish council bureaucrats to be aware of the communication, nor it’s content. The simple fact is that if you communicate with a councillor via their council email or via their council phone, then such communications can and always have been able to be either viewed (emails) or logged (phones), by council staff, as the devices issued and used by councillors are council property, and communications theron regarded as council records and open to scrutiny by council management and staff, should they so desire to do so, under various circumstances.
"So...If you want absolute ‘confidentiality’ ( a current buzz word), re a communication with a councillor you could always ask them for private contact details.
"Mine at present are 0490250555 or email@example.com."
There is little doubt that Council management, when asked to explain its actions in such a heavy handed investigation and the expenditure of thousands of ratepayers dollars to investigate their own councillors, will respond saying it is standard procedure as required by the Office of Local Government and even ICAC. However what they won't say is that the entire thing could have been nipped in the bud by simply asking how the information came to be known, two weeks after they voted on it. Surely both the Office of Local Government and even ICAC would have advised "make a 25c phonecall before you do anything else". And will we learn of the outcome of the $10,000 investigation? No. The report will be presented for the eyes-only of "the client". Not even the councillors will be advised of the final cost of the investigation or the outcome. A NOTE: for anyone wanting to stand as a councillor at the next election it is important to realise that while you might think you represent the community and rule the roost it is in fact the staff who call the shots. Be like Pat ..... and the others (unnamed at present) who now use their private emails and phones to make contact with the community and The Beagle.