Council’s new rules for the new year

Only councillors Jessica Cosgrove and Anne Salt were in their
seats when mayor Ben Shaw opened the council’s first public
forum for the year.

ONLY two other councillors were present when Derwent Valley mayor Ben Shaw opened the first public forum for 2019 just after the new starting time of 5.30pm on January 24.

Deputy mayor Jessica Cosgrove and councillor Anne Salt were joined by Cr Luke Browning about 10 minutes into the session and councillors Julie Triffett and Paul Belcher arrived near the end.

Cr Shaw started the forum with a statement that he said would be read at the start of workshops and council meetings.

“Derwent Valley Council takes safety seriously. We have a duty to ensure that we provide a safe workplace for our employees, councillors, contractors and members of the public while present at council workplaces. The courthouse forms part of the council’s workplace and it is expected that everyone who attends council meetings will behave in a quiet and respectful manner. People should refrain from using offensive or derogatory language and comments and not be aggressive, threatening or speak in a hostile manner,” Cr Shaw said.

The mayor had not yet completed reading out his statement when several members of the public interjected. One offered to second the motion while others said “yes, Mr Mayor.”

From the public gallery, Erin Kelly asked if the statement applied to both sides of the table, and Len Butterworth asked if the mayor was looking for agreement to the statement. He answered “absolutely” to Ms Kelly and “no” to Mr Butterworth.

Later in the public forum, Ms Kelly returned to the topic of the 2018 council annual general meeting and the disputed counting of abstentions in a motion of no confidence in the council. Including those abstentions resulted in the motion being lost.

Councillors voting against the motion of no confidence in the
Derwent Valley Council at the 2018 AGM.

Referring to the agenda documents for the council meeting to be held at the conclusion of the public forum, Ms Kelly asked why Cr Julie Triffett was proposing the development of a procedure for the running of the AGM. “I thought you had one,” she said. “Last month you stated that you were going by state legislation for meetings, but state legislation states that meetings in the legislated procedures means meetings, not AGMs.” She went on to say that the Local Government Association of Tasmania did not count abstentions at its own AGMs.

Ms Kelly also asked who was responsible for the council’s failure to adopt the Local Government Division’s Good Practice Guidelines for Annual General Meetings in the nine months after that policy was issued last February. “If that had of been put in place would the fiasco of happened last month [at the council AGM]? Voices were raised … the people in the gallery were called bullies online and you agreed to it and you sat there at the end of the meeting and when Mr Winton said ‘would you like to hold a public forum you said ‘nah, f… ’em…

Cr Shaw responded: “…it, I believe it was.”

Ms Kelly continued: “Is that part of the reason why you’re bringing in these new meeting procedures at the beginning of forums as well to cover yourselves?”

She suggested the council might want to consider a “phone and Facebook policy” for council meetings as it was inappropriate for councillors to be posting on Facebook during council meetings.

Deputy mayor Jessica Cosgrove said her own Facebook use at last month’s meeting – which became the subject of social media meme – had been during a break.

Ms Kelly said it was not fair to say the public was bullying councillors by coming in with questions. “We did get irate and so did you, you probably owe us as big an apology as we might owe you.”


Cr Shaw said he had no problem with people coming to council meetings with their questions, but some of the councillors had felt aggrieved at the some of the things they heard at the AGM.

Discussion then returned to the counting of abstentions as “no” votes at the council AGM, with Darren Graham echoing Ms Kelly’s earlier point that the Local Government Association did not follow that practice.

Cr Shaw said he had consulted the director of Local Government prior to the council AGM and he had advised running the AGM as closely as possible to standard council meeting procedure. “It is not a steadfast rule but that is the wording that the director of Local Government told me the week before the AGM.”

The forum ended with a threat to call the police if necessary, after a member of the public allegedly pointed at a councillor and said words to the effect of “you just wait.”

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