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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

The Tenth Man... when is a director not a councillor

Today's Council meeting was entertaining. Chaired by Deputy Mayor Alison Worthington the meeting made good progress through the agenda and arrived, as expected, at what was going to be the debate of the day. Before the Councillors was the staff recommendation to adopt an estuary management plan that included Mummaga Lake. Leading into the discussions was Councillor Tubby Harrison who said he was not happy with the gaping holes in the draft that were admitted to within the document. The general response to his concerns was that the document had been funded, agreed to by all participating agencies and that it needed to be adopted in order that Council could then seek funding for the actions that were described by the document. That sounded fair enough however to Councillor Harrison he was still concerned that the councillors were being painted into a position by the State Government of adopting a plan that he was not at all comfortable with. The discussion then raised the Elephant in the Room, being the legacy of distrust that the community has for Council in how they have dealt with land matters in the past. The concern that the future development of the substantive Dalmeny subdivisions have the potential to impact the Mummage Lake by way of runoff from clear felling, similar to the clear felling witnessed in other subdivisions across the shire seems to spark the ire of the Director of Planning. Normally, in a council meeting, the staff attend so as to answer questions, through the Chair, that are raised. Questions that Councillors might have to seek clarification and assist with their determinations. In a normal meeting the staff respond specifically to the question asked. Their responses are meant to be factual and not simply opinion. Unless asked they normally sit there and say nothing, given that they have already had the opportunity to voice their opinions in the briefings that occur before Council meetings. But for whatever reason it has become a trend to see the Director of Planning raising his hand to offer opinion without being asked a question. He sits there, as was the case today, with his hand in the air, indicating he wishes to participate in the discussion and appearing to have a comment he wishes to add. That might seem fine but is it allowed? Or has he overstepped his mark? In days of old the previous General Manager did little to stop what has now become "normal practice". All too often, in order that the Director be heard, the General Manager would deflect questions asked of her to her Director, as if it were a choreographed move to ensure staff viewpoint was brought to the chamber to become part of the debate, for and against. Today saw an interesting development in this sense of entitlement when the Director called a Point of Order on a councillor. Points of Order, when raised by a councillor during a meeting, must be dealt with immediately. Under the MODEL CODE OF MEETING PRACTICE for Local Councils in NSW 2021-15.1: A councillor may draw the attention of the chairperson to an alleged breach of this code by raising a point of order. A point of order does not require a seconder. Given that the Model Code only Councillors can raise a Point Of Order it goes without saying that, unless otherwise, the Point Of Order raised by a staff member that requested an opinion, stated during discussion, be withdrawn is out of line. Again, under 15.3 A point of order must be taken immediately it is raised. The chairperson must suspend the business before the meeting and permit the councillor raising the point of order to state the provision of this code they believe has been breached. The chairperson must then rule on the point of order – either by upholding it or by overruling it. The questions to be asked: Is it allowable meeting protocol that a Director be allowed to openly participate in a meeting and be heard during debate outside having a question asked, especially when the Director bypasses the protocol of doing so through the chair, and openly debates, uninvited, with an elected councillor? Is it allowable meeting protocol that a Director be allowed to raise a Point of Order demanding a councillor withdraw a stated opinion, and then have it accepted by the Chair to be heard and discussed ?

Image: Much like the Man who Mistook his wife for a hat it appears we have a Council Director who may have mistaken himself to be the Tenth elected councillor.

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NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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