Local Government office “aware” of council issues

Cr Paul Belcher.

A COUNCILLOR’S request for a formal inquiry into social media comments by elected members has been refused by Derwent Valley Council general manager Greg Winton.

During councillor question time at the end of last week’s council meeting, Cr Paul Belcher said there were comments online, allegedly from other elected members, dealing with Mr Winton’s employment contract and accusations about the former Valley Vision economic development group.

Addressing mayor Ben Shaw, Cr Belcher said there had been “a little bit of stuff going around on the social media” and he noted the mayor’s announcement of earlier that day, where he said the messages had been “doctored.”

“Yep, I had a statement that I read at the start of the meeting as well,” Cr Shaw said for the benefit of Cr Belcher who had arrived late.

Turning to Mr Winton, Cr Belcher asked: “Mr General Manager, will you request the Director of Local Government to do an investigation into the posts on the social media which is alleged comments from elected members to do to deal with your contract and also a question, accusations, about Valley Vision? So the question is will you request the Director of Local Government to do an investigation of the social media posts?”

Mr Winton said he would not be doing so. “No, I’m not going to contact the director to invite him, instruct him, I can’t instruct him anyway. I am aware that the Local Government Division are aware of those posts,” he said.

During public question time earlier in the meeting, local resident and former councillor Chris Lester asked Mayor Shaw about Facebook posts from the time of the recent Tynwald Park bird poisoning incident. “Mr Mayor, in a screenshot conversation between yourself and another person, you castigated the GM, made comments about the lack of good governance internally, and you say you absolutely didn’t know [about the poisoning] and that you will make management accountable,” Mr Lester said.

“You further stated ‘I think Marty is making a no-confidence motion in the GM asking him to step down’. You further say ‘someone up high must take the fall’. The question is, Mr Mayor, is the former mayor going to move a no-confidence motion tonight?”

Cr Shaw did not comment on the alleged statements as put by Mr Lester, but said the question of a no-confidence motion was a matter for the former mayor, Cr Martyn Evans, who was welcome to respond if he wished. “Obviously I can’t answer that, otherwise if it happens it happens, if it doesn’t it doesn’t,” Cr Shaw said.

Cr Evans said he would answer. “I make my decisions on informed information, so I’ll consider what I’ll put up at the time and I’ll do it – if I do it – when I want to.”

Mr Lester said it seemed Cr Shaw had misreported Cr Evans. “I don’t believe so, thank you,” Cr Shaw said.

The recording of last Thursday’s council meeting is available here. The text of the mayor’s apology about Valley Vision can also be read here.

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