In a recent ‘Mayor’s message’, South Gippsland Mayor Cr Don Hill invited readers “to view one of the recent council meetings streamed on the website to see the smooth functioning council in operation”.
I accepted the mayor’s invitation and viewed the council meeting on December 19, 2018.
I am not convinced that everything is hunky-dory and running smoothly “within the framework of acceptable conduct as defined by the Councillor Code of Conduct document and other appropriate standards”.
Pretty well from the start of the meeting it seemed to me that Cr Rich was focusing on his computer rather than fully engaging in the meeting.
On numerous occasions Cr Rich can be seen operating his computer rather than listening to fellow councillors speaking and on a number of occasions whilst councillors are speaking it looks to me as if he is texting on a smartphone.
Cr Rich was seated next to the newly appointed Cr Cousin and I thought it was particularly poor form for him to be operating his computer when Cr Cousin was speaking at the 11.00 to 12.54 minute mark and then later to be apparently texting when Cr Cousin was a lone voice speaking against a motion at 32.18.
Seems to me his actions were both distracting and discourteous to the new councillor. Shouldn’t he have been called to order?
To mention just a couple of other examples:
* At 50.17 apparently texting whilst Cr Skinner was speaking on the cat curfew.
* At 1.23.11 apparently texting whilst Crs Brunt then Brown were speaking then continuing whilst Mayor was speaking at 1.26.44 and still apparently texting while Cr Skinner starts speaking on the Korumburra Supermarket matter.
* At that point there are clearly some indications made to suggest to Cr Rich that he should leave the meeting which he did being called back at the conclusion of that topic.
I thought that clearly there was some issue regarding a conflict of interest on this subject despite the fact that none had been declared at the start of the meeting.
Interesting to note that the Minutes record that after the meeting Cr Rich completed a Conflict Of Interest form relating to that matter and a Confidential Agenda Item Matter.
The Councillor Code of Conduct Policy has a Core Value requiring councillors to actively listen “to you and each other”. This requires councillors to be “present” in the room, not distracted by other things and to listen, having regular eye contact to all people as they speak.
This viewer did not consider that Cr Rich was actively listening to other councillors for much of the meeting.
Furthermore, a belated Declaration of Conflict seems unsatisfactory and if Cr Rich was in fact texting on a smartphone, why wasn’t it “off” as required?
Clive Hope, Meeniyan.