By Michael Giles
ANOTHER South Gippsland Shire Councillor bit the dust last week.
Following the emotion-charged departure of former councillor Maxine Kiel a week earlier, citing bullying and abuse by other councillors, her colleague Meg Edwards has now followed suit, announcing her intention to step down on October 30.
That’s if the council gets to the end of the month before being sacked.
But if you go by ‘clicks’ on Facebook, where 21,114 people hit a missing dog post by the Sentinel-Times last week, sharing it 255 times, and 22,635 were interested in an accident on the Bass Highway, only 5884 people were ‘reached’ by Cr Edwards’ resignation post with a measly six shares.
Does anyone even care?
A trigger-happy shire admin hastily removed Cr Edwards’ contact details from the shire website last Thursday, then put them back again when it was pointed out she’s still a councillor and will vote at the Wednesday, October 24 meeting.
It’s likely to be a volatile affair but, as rumour has it, the meeting may be council’s last.
Initially intending to seek leave of absence while she contested the State Election, Cr Edwards had a change of heart last Thursday after another “terrible” meeting and said enough is enough.
But she told the Sentinel-Times, it wasn’t a case of “jumping before being pushed”.
In a long parting shot at the council, Cr Edwards said she was prepared to weather the storm of “bullying, intimidation and harassment”, up until now, but when she saw no sign, at last Wednesday’s briefing session, of a council prepared to acknowledge its own faults and try to improve, she called it.
“In a final glimmer of hope, for South Gippsland Council, there was an opportunity post Maxine Kiel’s resignation to acknowledge where we are, collectively as council, that behaviour has not been acceptable, that it needs to change,” Cr Edwards said after last week’s in-camera session.
“However, yesterday during our regular Wednesday briefing day, it was made clear by some councillors, they blame the local newspaper with the largest circulation for council’s woes rather than shouldering some responsibility, as they are the ones that sit around the table and make decisions that the media observe and report.
“While I might feel compassion for those unable to demonstrate maturity and responsibility, I do not believe that this council is achieving for the community or that it has the capacity to do so and find remaining or returning to such a toxic environment, a dysfunctional council, untenable with my conscience.
“The decision-making processes, lack of understanding and respect for good governance and acknowledgement by some councillors has been a growing concern of mine and one which negates any hope.”
It’s a dark assessment but reflects her frustration with yet another lost opportunity to reform (see Cr Edwards’ full statement on the Sentinel-Times’ website at www.sgst.com.au).
The Mayor, Cr Lorraine Brunt expressed regret about the news and has since put out a statement reassuring local residents about “the stability of the organisation” and “that the day-to-day operations are continuing to be delivered by our dedicated and professional staff” despite the departures.
“It is with regret that I must advise our community that Meg Edwards has resigned from Council effective from October 30, 2018,” Cr Brunt said today.
“The challenges for this Council have not been easy to deal with for anyone and I respect her decision to leave at this time. Meg is a strong community advocate and brought her passion to the table at every opportunity.
“I hope Meg can look back at her achievements with pride and know that her support for the community and her fellow councillors will not go unnoticed.
“I wish Meg the best of luck with her candidacy for the State Government elections in November. She will certainly be missed but I know her drive will push her on to do great things.”
Meanwhile Gippsland South MLA, Danny O’Brien has weighed into the debate, calling on the Minister Marlene Kairouz, to take action.
“The problems besetting South Gippsland Shire are well known and have prompted the state government to investigate on a couple of fronts,” Mr O’Brien said.
“It is now incumbent on the Andrews Labor Government to expedite those inquiries and make a decision on the future of the council as quickly as possible,” he said.
Facebook friends can have the last word:
Ruth Cashin: Would the last person leaving please turn out the lights?