Gagged

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Gagged

Paul Norton

PAUL Norton has been gagged and fined by South Gippsland mayor Warren Raabe.
The fining is unprecedented in the shire’s history.
It will cost Mr Norton, a Leongatha South farmer, about $600.
The fine followed what Cr Raabe described as Mr Norton’s “atrocious behaviour”.  The drama unfolded at Wednesday evening’s council meeting.
Mr Norton was trying to speak to a number of written questions he wanted answered.
He had been ejected from the chamber a fortnight before for being unruly and warned to lodge any future questions in writing.
He obliged, but during gallery time at the end of last week’s full council meeting, Mr Norton rose to speak.
The mayor told him he had been banned from making any comment and asked him to sit down.
Mr Norton didn’t comply.
The mayor said the microphone, there for public use, had been turned off.
He continued to warn Mr Norton and finally told him he would be fined five penalty points.
A penalty point is worth nearly $120.
The amount is fixed by the State Treasurer and rises every year.
Mr Norton said later that he had wanted to speak briefly to his list of written queries. He said he wasn’t aware the microphone had been turned off and didn’t hear Cr Raabe say that it had been.
The mayor later told The Star he had been hard on Mr Norton because not only had he ignored a written warning, he had failed to apologise for earlier poor behaviour.
Will Paul Norton pay the fine?
“I haven’t got the bill yet!” he told The Star.
One of Mr Norton’s favourite sayings is, “I don’t go looking for trouble.”
But he keeps a very close eye on council processes and believes these are not always properly followed.
His questions invariably relate to such matters.
On Friday, Cr David Lewis described the fining of Mr Norton as “a rum deal”.
“I’m sorry to see this situation develop. There are all sorts of people in the community and we have to give them a bit of leeway.”
Mr Norton has since withdrawn his questions.
But he has lodged a freedom of information request with council to access a recording of a meeting that is at the heart of one of his process complaints.
Mr Norton is not the only one concerned about that particular meeting. The other is self-styled community watchdog Paul Richardson. Both men are alleging a breach of process and were ejected from the chamber when they began questioning the matter during a council briefing session two weeks’ ago.
Mr Richardson said he has written to the Minister for Local Government Jeanette Powell, about it. He believes it constitutes a breach of the Local Government Act.
Following the briefing session, Mr Norton said Cr Raabe rang him, offering to discuss things informally over a cup of coffee. Mr Norton said he declined.
Cr Raabe then wrote him a letter, pointing out it was his duty to call to order any person who is disruptive or unruly during any meeting. The letter also noted that any member of the public or community addressing the council must extend “due courtesy” and must take direction from the chair.
The mayor told The Star a similar letter had gone out to Mr Richardson. Asked if he had received that, Mr Richardson said “no”.
Mr Norton had been in line for a fine over the briefing session transgression, but Cr Raabe said in his letter that he had used his discretion to waive that infringement.
Mr Norton was not so lucky the second time.

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Posted by on Mar 1 2011. 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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