The administrative leadership group at Bass Coast Shire has plumbed new depths in poor governance and lack of accountability.
Acting against the clearly expressed wishes of some councillors as well as against community expectations, the CEO and senior managers have abandoned the normally accepted protocols and have unilaterally introduced what I would term their unreasonable customer conduct (UCC) policy.
In April this year Cr Michael Whelan, being aware of community concerns, nonetheless successfully moved for council officers to develop an Unreasonable Customer Conduct Policy.
During the debate several councillors, including Cr Whelan, acknowledged expressions of concern from the community regarding the policy intent and its possible misuse.
Cr Ron Bauer repeatedly stressed that the motion called ONLY for officers to prepare a policy.
Further, Cr Bauer stipulated two conditions for supporting the motion, namely that the policy when drafted be scrutinised by a qualified civil-liberties lawyer and it be brought back before council for scrutiny before it was posted or enacted.
But this did not happen.
This appalling new policy was signed into action by the CEO on May 12, and it is posted on council’s website.
Community concerns about potential misuse of this policy have been proved well founded.
With the ink barely dry on this awful policy, the administration has already attempted to enact it against community members, including yours truly.
I have been summoned to a meeting with senior managers and threatened with sanction.
I have written to council to advise that I will not be silenced by this type of bureaucratic intimidation, and especially not by a leadership group that refuses to abide by its own complaint handling policy.
I consider the administration’s action in this instance to be further evidence of an ongoing culture of creeping authoritarianism.
I believe it is a culture which seeks to prevent legitimate scrutiny of councillors and the administration.
Such a culture in my view presents serious threat to genuine, open, and democratic processes.
If you as a community member are concerned at the administration’s actions regarding this policy, then I encourage you to write to your councillors to request they take action to make the policy available to the community for feedback before it is considered at an ordinary council meeting.
Kevin Griffin, Wonthaggi.