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Presentation to Public Forum May 10th: Lei Parker

Presentation to Eurobodalla Council – Public Forum – May 10th 2022 GMR22/053 Draft Code of Meeting Practice - For Exhibition . and GMR22/054 Congo Road North Councillors, Firstly, in regard to your report on the Code of Meeting Practice. YOU are being asked to VOTE on whether or not Public Forum sessions are live-streamed and whether or not Public Access sessions are live-streamed Staff have advised you that during an online community survey period, 312 surveys were completed and 59 written responses were received. In regards to the question “Do you think Public Forum should be livestreamed and recorded? Apparently 133 said Yes and 153 said No. The report offers nothing more of any reasoning behind these responses. Instead the report offers the staff’s opinion of why you should seriously consider voting NO by leading in with “The results indicate that not livestreaming public forum is slightly favoured during the engagement process. The report then dares to mimic the ex-mayor saying “It should be noted that webcasting of Public Forum not only increases Council’s potential liability, but could also cause significant or offence should a speaker reveal an issue of privacy or state derogatory comments about a person which is based on incorrect, malicious or misunderstood information”. The same response is tabled for webcasting of Public access but this time the vote for is 126 ans the No's are the same 153 faceless citizens. I remind you Councillors that each and everyone of you stood on a platform of openness and transparency and each one of you declared that you would, as a matter of importance ensure that Public Forum is web cast, recorded and archived. I remind you that the community voted for you on that mandate and they did not vote for 153 faceless survey respondents. GMR22/054 Congo Road North In regards to openness and transparency I must advise my absolute disappointment that YOU have failed already in this regard. In November 2021 your staff advised that they had “legal advice” that basically authorised them to proceed with the removal of 10 trees on private property stating that it was deemed “public road”. Their statement was delivered with an audacity that dared challenge, but challenged they were over their legal right, and they withdrew. As it turned out, if council had removed a single branch they would have been in breech of the law. So what was this legal advice they declared they had? In order to know what the advice was, and the context of the question asked and response given I applied under the GIPA Act, only to be told that Council retains legal privilege and will not advise “word for word” what the advice was. “Under clause 5(2) of Schedule 1 to the GIPA Act, Council must consider whether it is appropriate to waive privilege before it decides to refuse access to the information. As Council declines waiving privilege, a copy of the legal advice cannot be disclosed to you”. This response came from your staff. The last time I looked YOU were Council. But here we have a staff member advising that YOU, as Council, declines waiving privilege. What I did discover from that GIPA request was that Council has sought “advice” a full two and a half months before the November action to remove trees. Oddly, Council advises that it was not required to pay for the advice. Council has not divulged if the advice was written or verbal. Unsurprisingly much of the advice Council claims to receive is verbal rendering it untraceable under GIPA requests. The issue of the claimed “legal advice” (that was proven to be in error) is just a small part in the overall treatment of the community in how Council acts and communicates. A simple question “Why haven’t the community been consulted”, asked by a Councillor at the time of the removal received a blunt response of “We do not consult on Operational Matters”. The report before you does not do justice to the history of this issue. Staff have failed to explain to the community why they ignored a directive given by a previous term of Council In March 1999 the Council of the day gave a very clear instruction in regards to tidying up the road anomalies that were to be found on the Congo Road North including two part-lot acquisitions (Lot 24 and Lot 181) for the purpose of Congo Creek Bridge.

Above: Given the direction and the budget to carry out Point 4 why did Council staff take it upon themselves, with no explanation, to ignore the formal directive of Council? The recommendation was written by the then Technical Services Manager, Warren Sharpe. Mr Sharpe is now the Director of Engineering. Yet our new councillors have not bothered to ask Mr Sharpe why he ignored a Council directive given to him in 1999. As with any report presented by staff it is essential to read between the lines and to ascertain the reasoning behind their “recommendations”. I raise again the issue of staff controlling the information required for the community to be fully informed of an issue so that a collective open discussion can be brought to the table. You may have stood on a platform of openness and transparency but according to your staff “ Council declines waiving privilege” Did your staff ever ask you if you waived legal privilege? Given that YOU have been vested with the authority of the GIPA Act and have only delegated this to staff do you believe that the staff may have acted above their authority when they advise a member of the public that Council declines waiving privilege without actually talking to YOU, The Council? Lei Parker

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