CR MAXINE Kiel had the floor at last week’s Special Statutory Meeting of the South Gippsland Shire Council and she used it to devastating effect.
Rising to make a speech as the departing Deputy Mayor, she took a deep breath and launched into one of the most compelling addresses heard in the council chamber for many a long year.
A pity it was about disgraceful behaviour of some of her colleagues, as yet unnamed, over the course of the past 12 months.
But she has the proof, she says, with the inference being she’s prepared to use it if pushed.
Here, in part, is what she had to say:
“I would like to start off by saying that anything I say today, I can back up with proof as I do not make statements that are untrue.
“First and foremost I would like to thank my fellow councillors for allowing me to have the position of Deputy Mayor for our great shire for this last year.
“I feel privileged to have held this position and have formed a productive working relationship with our mayor, Ray, and have enjoyed representing the council at various events…
“This has been a year full of change – last year I stood here and said that I would be the loud voice in Council to represent the community. I have, however, been the quiet voice…
“I have had the highs of being elected, the overwhelming information bombardment, understanding the workings of local government against the private enterprise sector, the disillusionment, the continual harassment of fellow councillors, the constant tantrums by some councillors and behaviour that I have never seen before in my life. The huge amount of emails, I certainly wasn’t prepared for, especially when they are attacking my right to have an opinion. The lack of respect of some for their fellow councillors and staff is quite frankly, embarrassing. The constant belittling, denigrating and ridiculing of other councillors must cease. I am ashamed that I have not stood up sooner to defend those councillors on the receiving end of this bullying and ridicule. It makes me wonder why we have a Code of Conduct that we all signed this time last year.”
Cr Kiel went on to highlight some of the achievements by the council in the past year and personal highlights including citizenship and citizen of the year ceremonies, the allocation of community grants, the school’s history program at Coal Creek and the various festivals and events she attended, but she returned to the theme of councillor behaviour.
“However, and most importantly, I wish to acknowledge the many community members out there performing amazing things and getting on with advancing not just their community but the Shire in general. Going out into our communities and seeing first-hand what they are doing and what they do not want to change, has also been very rewarding for me. There is nothing like seeing issues or trying to help people solve their problems whether that be to fix a pothole, get the parks mown, or not wanting their community to change at all. I believe our role as Councillors is to encourage, unite and uppermost, not divide, our communities. We should listen to them and learn from them.
“I look forward to the next three years implementing our plans and to continuing the community interaction. We must look ahead and sincerely pledge behavioural changes if we are to progress this Council forward.
“I may be called a lot of things, but Councillors, never question for one moment my professionalism, integrity or commitment to this organisation and the community. To attack me personally is just not on, and to infer that I work behind anyone’s back, I will not accept. The community will always take priority with the things I do and always has done.”
Cr Kiel concluded her remarks by congratulating the out-going mayor, Cr Ray Argento, who she said had maintained an “amenable demeanour” despite some pretty intense situations.
Later Cr Kiel said: “It took a lot for me to say that but it needed to be said.”
However, far from acting as a circuit-breaker for past behaviours, her comments unleashed a new burst of vitriolic emails, some accusing Cr Kiel of a serious Code of Conduct breach for bringing council into public disrepute.