I refer to page 22, Sentinel-Times, October 13, and the Letter to the Editor from Keith Finney, Inverloch, titled ‘How to earn respect’.
In his letter, Mr Finney states “…Prohibit the unethical practice of councillors using alternative motions as a method of introducing measures that have never been subject to public scrutiny. Any measures that have been passed in this way will not be enforced and will be revoked at the earliest opportunity.”
This Letter goes to the very heart of Bass Coast Shire Council (BCSC) and councillor good conduct and governance.
I do not know Mr Finney, nor discussed or canvassed this matter with Mr Finney, however he clearly has similar concerns regarding the council meeting governance, and of interest, I wrote to the Minister for Local Government [Minister Hutchins MP] previously on September 1, 2015, as follows:
“Dear Minister Hutchins
I wish to draw your attention to a breach of Local Government Meeting Procedures and Proceedings by BCSC.
My understanding for BCSC ordinary meetings usually held monthly, that Council should only consider items listed on the agenda and which the public and members of council are on notice about, especially for contentious or complex matters.
These breaches are twofold:
1. BCSC fails to annex attachments to the agenda available to the public, with advice from BCSC that attachments are available upon request. My view is that all attachments should be automatically available to the public with the agenda and the subsequent minutes. These attachments are never recorded on the council’s website with the agenda or subsequent minutes and never available on the council’s website for record purposes and for open and transparent scrutiny by the public generally, either before or after any ordinary meeting.
2. For BCSC ordinary meetings, a recommendation is usually made for each agenda item, however, councillors frequently without notice, table at the ordinary meeting an amended or substitute recommendation. Often, this amended or substituted recommendation (including contentious and complex matters) is adopted without due process and without prior notice to the public.
My recommendations follow:
a. All attachments be annexed to the ordinary meeting agenda and minutes on council’s website in accordance with agenda/minutes timing protocols, for record purposes, and to ensure openness and transparency for the benefit of the public.
b. The practice outlined in 2 above cease, and that any councillor proposed amendment or substitute recommendation be issued with the agenda and published in advance of the meeting in accordance with agenda timing protocols, for record purposes, and to ensure openness and transparency for the benefit of the public. The minutes to record same and outcomes.”
I have yet to receive a reply from Ms Hutchins, and perhaps the South Gippsland Sentinel Times could make an enquiry with the Ministers’ Office on behalf of our Community to ascertain the Minister’s position with a view to ensuring Bass Coast Shire Councillor accountability and transparency.
Les Larke, Wonthaggi.