TONIGHT’S meeting of the Derwent Valley Council descended into farce after mayor Tony Nicholson refused to receive a public statement he had previously agreed to hear. Persistent questioner Damian Bester went to the meeting with two questions and was surprised with a letter from Councillor Nicholson before the meeting started.
When called upon to put his questions, Bester said he first wished to make a short statement relating to the letter from the mayor. Cr Nicholson said he would hear the questions first, and if time permitted, Mr Bester could make his statement afterwards. With his two short questions out of the way, Mr Bester started on his statement but was told to resume his seat. Standing his ground, he reminded the mayor of his undertaking to hear the statement and pointed out that several councillors were nodding in agreement.
Cr Nicholson said the statement would be heard at another time, but Mr Bester proceeded to have his say. With the mayor repeatedly telling him to resume his seat, Mr Bester said the mayor had handed him a letter that night, noting that he had not yet taken up the mayor’s offer to inspect an inventory of historical items relating to the Willow Court historic site. Mr Bester said his only comment was that he had been seeking a copy of the inventory, not merely a chance to look at it, and that was why he had not availed himself of the mayor’s offer.
Mr Bester resumed his seat in the public gallery to the sound of mayor protesting that the statement “would not be heard”.
Council policy sets aside 15 minutes of every open council meeting for public statements and questions. Despite a lengthy and interesting question from Michael Whitehead on the value of the Valley Vision group, the time limit had not been exceeded when the mayor refused to hear Damian Bester’s statement.