Margaret Sartorio and Julie Jones with the signs they were asked to put away at last week’s council meeting. G115014
IT APPEARS Bass Coast Shire Council will no longer tolerate signs of protest being brought into the council chamber.
Three women from Inverloch discovered this first-hand towards the beginning of last week’s meeting in Cowes when the Mayor, Cr Kimberley Brown, promptly told them to put their fairly unobtrusive, A4-sized signs away.
Displaying the messages ‘The longer the explanation, the bigger the lie’ and ‘I don’t want you to think like me, I just want you think’, the signs were held aloft by members of Inverloch’s dog lobby who had already attended many council meetings.
When one of the women questioned their rights in regards to voicing their beliefs at a council meeting, council’s CEO, Paul Buckley, stepped in.
He mentioned the councillors’ code of conduct and advised the women that the signs could be interpreted as public criticism directed at an individual in the room.
The women complied, but nothing was said of the ‘Dogs are for life, council 4 years’ slogan on a T-shirt still worn by one of them.
Following the meeting, the women said they were mystified by the sudden reaction from the Mayor and CEO.
It’s understandable they’d be confused, since it wasn’t the first time anyone has held up a protest sign relating to dogs or any other council matter in the council chamber.
Earlier this year, at the first Bass Coast council meeting Mr Buckley attended, there were about 30 signs displayed in relation to the Cape Paterson special charge scheme.
Some of those signs even mentioned a councillor by name, but nothing about a code of conduct or local laws was even mentioned, much less enforced.
Although he didn’t say it at the meeting, Mr Buckley told the Sentinel-Times the following day that the signs held up last Wednesday were directed at Cr Jordan Crugnale.
“In relation to the February meeting, I did not notice any personally directed signs,” he said. “I think last night was a fairly blatant incident directed at an individual councillor and clearly inconsistent with the intent of both the local law and the code of conduct in relation to respect.”