IF EVER there was any doubt about it, the South Gippsland Shire Council has thrown out all claims of being an ‘open and transparent council’ with the bath water.

As part of the publication of the Minutes today (Wednesday, April 3), supposed to be a true and correct record of the meeting on Wednesday, March 27, the council has redacted almost all of former councillor Jim Fawcett’s report to the point of reducing its publication in the Minutes to high farce.

The former mayor, Lorraine Brunt, has also had much of her report censored.

And that despite an offer by the Mayor Cr Hill, that written reports would be included in the Minutes.

The decision to censor almost all of Cr Fawcett’s report and much of Cr Brunt’s follows a controversial motion, moved Cr Ray Argento, seconded Cr Alyson Skinner, at the March council meeting, to abandon the Councillor Reports section of the meeting to stop the two retiring councillors from making final statements.

Crs Argento, Hill, McEwen, Rich and Skinner voted 5:3 to gagged the two retiring councillors.

Cr Fawcett’s statement

This is what Cr Fawcett would have said if he hadn’t been gagged by a council motion, moved Cr Ray Argento and seconded Cr Alyson Skinner, and voted for by five of the eight councillors; Argento, McEwen, Hill, Rich and Skinner.

“I attended a public meeting in Leongatha on March 4, 2019. Over 400 people were there. They voted overwhelmingly to support a resolution to the Minister for Local Government to dismiss the councillors.

“A Facebook poll of over 1000 residents unable to attend also resulted in a 96 per cent favourable vote to remove the councillors.

“Community anger over the behaviour of councillors has been brought to a head by the resignations of myself and three other councillors.

“Those four councillors have all outlined their reasons in statements that have been widely publicised. One remaining councillor has agreed with those reasons.

“I do not propose to revisit them here.

“To the Premier and Minister I simply say this: Five councillors have publicly denounced behaviours that have resulted in a toxic workplace, harmful to the health of councillors, officers and good governance. Six councillors deny anything of the sort and have publicly said so despite obvious factual evidence to the contrary. In all of this a common refrain from the public has been ‘what the hell is going on’.

“Our Minister having called for reports now has the necessary information to release those reports and state his intentions regarding the future of this council. The Premier as leader of our state has a duty to ensure this occurs.

“The community have an overwhelming right to know who is telling the truth.”

Cr Brunt’s statement

This is what Cr Brunt would have said:

“It has been a privilege and a honour indeed to serve this council and I thank the residents and ratepayers for their ongoing support for 6yrs and a half years.

“I have at times since forwarding my resignation been rather chuffed and overwhelmed by the support of our Community stalwarts.

“I thank you all for the emails, letters and phone calls that express your appreciation of my dedicated service.

“I wish to acknowledge the dedication of the staff and the CEO for a sterling job.

“In what could only be said to be difficult times.

“Today the Community lose 2 of the best councillors that have served the ratepayers over many years.

“Today is my last Council meeting I will attend as a councillor.

“I am leaving proud of my achievements I have accomplished.

“I advocated for the sewerage scheme of Poowong Loch and Nyora that has now been implemented and has improved the health and wellbeing and the liveability in those town. The Poowong Swimming Pool was set for possible closure. Together with the Community we rallied together and funding was sought and was successful, 6yrs later the Pool is a great Community asset.

“The Korumburra A&P Society grounds, what a marvellous transformation, and now an asset the whole community of South Gippsland can be proud of.

“A state-of-the-art Children’s Centre in Korumburra, new footpaths constructed as vital infrastructure.

“My 12 months serving as Mayor was a rewarding but extremely difficult and challenging time.

“I need to say little on councillor behaviour as I believe the attached letter that I call the infamous letter that will go down in history for all the wrong reasons.

“The reasons for my resignation was not the reasons that six councillors stated in a letter released to the media.

“I have several emails that I had written to the Deputy Mayor stating that if the partisan behaviour of the Mayor didn’t improve towards me I would not be there much longer.

“I explained in an email to Cr Skinner that a decision that was on the Mayors rules of contacting the Mayor only and not sharing emails with all councillors for openness and transparency was not an option available to Cr Fawcett and myself.

“But the group of five councillors voted to retain the “rules” and impact was what forced my resignation.”

Photo: Former Cr Jim Fawcett’s final councillor’s report has been almost completely censored prior to publication in the council minutes.