It is understood that the behaviour of Cr Meg Edwards’ council colleagues at an in-camera briefing day on Wednesday this week (yesterday) was the last straw.
She follows the lead of former councillor Maxine Kiel who resigned last week citing bullying and abuse by other councillors as the reason.
However Cr Edwards has previously indicated that she would have to take leave of absence during the upcoming State Election campaign for which she is a candidate for the Upper House Seat of Eastern Victoria.
Here’s what the Mayor Cr Lorraine Brunt had to say about the second councillor resignation within a week:
“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.”
Cr Edwards’ statement
Cr Edwards made the following statement:
“It was with a heavy heart that I registered my resignation as a Councillor this morning with the Chief Executive Officer of South Gippsland Shire Council, Mr Tim Tamlin, with an effective date of Tuesday, October 30, 2018. This date could be earlier if a countback is completed prior to that.
“Last week, former councillor Maxine Kiel lodged her resignation and I completely support her statements. We both ran for council having volunteered countless hours in our communities and to make a greater contribution. Just because someone doesn’t make or pursue a formal complaint process of bullying, intimidation and harassment does not mean it isn’t happening – it was made known through both emails (correspondence between councillors are public documents) and conversations, had been asked to be addressed early on in this term of council.
“Not having pursued a judicial process early on, was due to not being supported, a desire for change, not revenge, to wish to see the good in people, to not put yourself and others through the additional stresses and costs to ratepayers of such a process. But for me to take no action, plays heavier on my conscience.
“Having grown up in South Gippsland and bringing up my own children here, the stability of our institutions, sustainability of our natural environment, opportunities both in agriculture, business and socially for our next generation are front of mind to me.
“I have stood for respect of others and our community, for both our foundations, those who have come before us, the new and those to come. For kindness and strength. For commercial opportunities for our region that do not impact adversely on our environment, for a lean organisation that provides the essential services and infrastructure of local government well and looks for efficiencies and savings.
“To let you get on with doing what you do without interference. You, as a ratepayer and tax payer are the best person to determine how your money is spent. Despite the bullying and intimidating behaviour, my decision making process and voting has never been influenced by it. My skin is as thick as a rhino, my heart is soft.
“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. 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 woes rather than shouldering some responsibility.
As they are the ones that sit around the table and make decisions that the media observe & 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.
“As you will be aware I am candidate for the 2018 State Election. My intention was to take unpaid leave of absence from the 30th of October through to the declaration of the polls which would be no later than 15 December 2018.
“By resigning now, I am enabling the countback process with the VEC to commence and the Tarwin Valley ward will be fully represented during November.
“I would like to thank the constituents of Tarwin Valley and South Gippsland for their support. I would like to thank our wonderful and strong Mayor Lorraine Brunt for taking action rather than turning a blind eye to behaviour that is inappropriate. To former Councillor Maxine Kiel, it was heartbreaking to hear your speech last week, you were on council for the right reasons, Maxine you have my full support.
“To Cr Aaron Brown you have taken a calm and measured approach in all matters. To the CEO Tim Tamlin, Directors (Faith, Bryan & Anthony), Natasha, June, Jodie and Rick that we liaise with on a frequent basis and many others – thank you. I acknowledge the stressful environment that you have been working in and your professionalism throughout.
“Life is a gift, it is important for each of us to make decisions and live in line with our values, to take action where we have the ability to do so and where we don’t to recognise that and put our energies elsewhere.
“I remain a strong voice for our region and look forward to doing that in other ways.”
Speaking to the Sentinel-Times today, Cr Edwards acknowledged that neither she nor Cr Kiel had pointed the finger at the offending councillors but agreed this might be deduced by omission from the remarks above.
Cr Edwards also rejected the notion that she “jumped before being pushed” for election reasons following a new report that the South Gippsland Council might be suspended before the State Government goes into Caretaker Mode, also on October 31.
“No, I hadn’t heard that. My advice was that the council wouldn’t be dismissed this year but that may have changed following Cr Kiel’s departure and mine, I guess.”
The shire prematurely removed Cr Edwards’ details from their website, but reinstated her phone number etc after it was pointed out that Cr Edwards remains a councillor until October 31 and is eligible to attend the October 26 council meeting which may be the last.