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Stop the squabble

STOP the infighting and get on with the job of running the shire, South Gippsland Shire mayor Cr Bob Newton has urged his fellow councillors.
This comes after a councillor conduct panel decision found Cr Jim Fawcett had breached the code when he told Cr Jeanette Harding in mid- 2015 he would not support her in respect to matters affecting her ward with the intent of inducing her to change her vote.
The determination of the panel is contained in the agenda for the South Gippsland Shire council meeting due for Wednesday, July 27.
Cr Fawcett faced four other allegations made by Cr Don Hill, some relating to breach of confidentiality and others alleging ongoing bullying to Cr Hill however these matters were all dismissed.
In the Mayor’s Message in this week’s Star Cr Newton said he would “like to draw a line in the sand when it comes to how we manage ourselves as representatives of this community.”
“We have three months remaining in our term and I call on my colleagues to demonstrate the goodwill and trust that we’d like to see in all future councils, not the strife and bitterness that has divided this council over the last few months.”
Ratepayers who have attended some of the council meetings in the past 12 months have left appalled by the behaviour of some of the councillors.
It appears the mayor’s instruction may have already fallen on deaf ears; with hardly the ink dry on the panel report Cr Hill has already issued 6,000 newsletters which have made claims likely to be disputed by Cr Fawcett.
Cr Hill told The Star because his original complaint included the comments that “Cr Fawcett threatened and bullied the mayor between June 10 and June 24, 2015” had been substantiated by the panel then these words were appropriate.
However these aren’t the words used in the panel’s findings; all it concluded was that he had breached clause 2.2c and 3.1b of the code when he said he would not support Cr Harding’s votes in her ward.
But in his just released Tarwin Valley Ward newsletter, Cr Hill says, under the heading of Dear Ratepayers of South Gippsland “it is very disappointing that certain elements on council appear to take their obligations as a councillor to include bullying and coercion as part of their tactics to ensure victory in council votes.”
Cr Fawcett denied he was a bully and said the issue of bullying comes under a different clause and this was not part of the breaches which have been alleged by Cr Hill.
The matter of bullying alleged in the fifth matter was dismissed, he said.
Asked whether he would appeal the decision by the panel or take any legal advice as to Cr Hill’s assertions, Cr Fawcett said he needed some more time to consider it. Cr Fawcett had not read or seen the newsletter at the time of the press interview.
In a public statement issued by Cr Fawcett, which appears in full on page 12, he said he accepted the substantiated breach in that it “requires a councillor to treat other councillors with respect, having due regard to their opinions, beliefs, rights and responsibilities even when disagreeing with their views or decision.”
The panel has determined that for the breach “Cr Fawcett stands reprimanded for his conduct towards Cr.Harding.”
This panel hearing has cost in the vicinity of $11,000 to council. Added to the $30,000 which is believed to have been the cost of the first panel hearing against Cr Hill, the shire has spent at least $40,000 of ratepayers funds, money which would be better spent on services.
Cr Hill told The Star that because Cr Fawcett was found guilty on allegation 3 that this provided proof Cr Fawcett and four other councillors had formed a voting bloc, an accusation again denied by Cr Fawcett when it was put to him by The Star.
“In many instances we have voted together but in many others we haven’t; you just need to look at council minutes to see what the voting patterns are,” Cr Fawcett said.
Cr Don Hill has appealed to VCAT the panel decision which went against him, relating to him being disrespectful to councillors and council staff and misleading the community; a claim he staunchly refutes.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=19143

Posted by on Jul 19 2016. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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