Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The new Clarence Valley Council meets for the first time

Mayor Jim Simmons (standing) and Deputy Mayor Jason Kingsley (seated)

Shortly after 4pm on 27 September 2016 in an open (show of hands) ballot by the nine recently elected councillors, Cr. Jim Simmons of Maclean was elected Mayor of Clarence Valley Council and Cr. Jason Kingsley of Grafton was elected Deputy Mayor – both for a term of two years.

The new council wasted no time in flexing its muscle on an issue which had been a bone of contention for some time and, perhaps signalled that senior management’s days of almost unfettered ascendancy were drawing to a close and a more democratic balance of power between Council in the Chamber and local government administration was being re-established.

The Daily Examiner, 27 September 2016:

4.45PM: An urgent motion has been brought forward by Cr Andrew Baker, to scrap councillor training scheduled for next month.
Cr Baker described the training, to be held on October 6, as an imminent waste of money, and noted it needed to be debated today as the October meeting falls after that date.
A vote has been held to bring the motion onto the agenda and it is now being discussed.

5PM: IT HAS been revealed a perceived conflict of interest is behind the motion to delay or scrap scheduled councillor training.
The training provider, as well as providing training for councillors, has in the past investigated a code of conduct complaint for the Clarence Valley Council.

5.10PM: Councillor Baker says his stance on the training is about the ability of all councillors to access unbiased training.
"In particular and only from my point of view at this stage," he said. 
"I am unable to participate in any further training proposed by the training provider, simply because in the one and only training session I attended I was provided with advice I considered to be misleading at best."
Cr Baker said advice given in the same training session resulted in a code of conduct complaint against Cr Toms, which she acknowledged.
He added that the training provider was also the probity auditor for the depot project.
"We don't need to rush into training that I will be denied opportunity to go for," he said.
Cr Toms said on the case, a cross claim was dismissed in court in Sydney on Tuesday.  She also said she would not attend the training.
Opposing the motion, Cr Williamson called it a "stitch-up", and said he wouldn't be a part of it. Lysaught also spoke against the motion.
With the support of Novak, Toms, Baker, Ellem and Simmons, the motion was carried.

What this media report does not point out is that certain advice allegedly given to councillors during that training session would have contributed to a legal cost billable to Clarence Valley Council when the cross-claim was dismissed, which was hopefully fully covered by council’s indemnity insurance – otherwise a budget line item just grew in size.

During the meeting it was also heartening to hear Cr. Simmons in his acceptance speech admit that in recent years council’s track record with regard to community consultation had not been good and that this was a matter the new council needed to address.

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