The Bass Coast Shire Council’s April Ordinary Meeting started early, at 11am instead of 5pm today in extraordinary circumstances.
The meeting is being held in the Wonthaggi Town Hall, starting with five councillors present for a Special Meeting of the Cemetery Trust, barely enough for a council quorum but with Cr Michael Whelan joining the meeting, to make six, at 11:07am.
Cr Pam Rothfield and Cr Claire LeServe were not present for the meeting and Cr Stephen Fullarton was due to join the meeting later.
Neither the community nor the media was allowed into the body of the hall to witness the proceedings, likely to be at least a technical breach of the Local Government Act 1989 (Section 89), according to expert opinion received by the Sentinel-Times.
The Mayor Cr Brett Tessari defended the arrangements, which included having the press located away from the hall auditorium, in the foyer, listening to the audio only.
“We’re not closed to the public but it doesn’t fit into the four reasons for being out so we thought people wouldn’t be attending for that reason but we have made arrangements for the press,” Cr Tessari said.
“The reason why we have restricted the number of people coming into the hall is because we only wanted the minimum number of people in here to best manage the risk.”
A member of shire staff said the council sought a ruling from Local Government Victoria around meeting procedure in the present COVID-19 climate.
At the start of the meeting Cr Tessari thanked councillors for their attendance and also thanked staff for their work making arrangements for the meeting.
“I appreciate having this meeting was against some of your initial thoughts and I thank the staff for getting this together at relatively short notice.”
The first item of business at the meeting was for the authorisation of the audio from the meeting to be published and also for the cancellation of regular meetings, except as required by the CEO, to minimise the risk associated with coronavirus.
Cr Geoff Ellis also moved that the council write to the Minister seeking approval from the Minister not to have to attend the meetings in person, instead to conduct meetings online.
The motion was approved unanimously.