Councillors lack power to suspend mayor

Derwent Valley Council acting general manager
Brian Barrett, left, with mayor Ben Shaw.

COUNCILLORS have been told they have no power to require mayor Ben Shaw to stand aside in accordance with a motion carried at last month’s Derwent Valley Council annual general meeting.

In a report to this week’s council meeting, acting general manager Brian Barrett says the council cannot lawfully adopt the resolution of the AGM as it has no power under the Local Government Act 1993 in relation to the election, continued service, or dismissal of a mayor.

Mr Barrett does not address the remainder of the resolution, which called for independent investigations into the culling of birds at Tynwald Park last year and the alleged bullying of staff, and approval for a member of the public to meet with the council’s audit panel.

The council is obliged to consider all motions carried by a majority of voters at its annual general meetings and in this case Mr Barrett has recommended that the council “note the resolution” and “determine any further action necessary.”

According to the report in this week’s council agenda, the motion moved by former council general manager Stephen Mackey and seconded by former councillor Wayne Shoobridge was:

“That the Mayor stand aside until independent investigations are held in regard to the following:
(a) The procedure and process followed in regard to the execution of the Geese at Tynwald  Park and whether it was due to conversations (not  substantiated) between community groups who use the area and the mayor;
(b) That an independent investigation be undertaken in regard to the rumoured bullying of  employees by the mayor and management of the Derwent Valley Council;
(c) That ratepayers seek approval by the mayor and councillors for a resident and/or ratepayer  nominated from those present tonight to meet with the members of the Audit Panel and a representative from Tas Audit to determine if they were provided with a copy of the review  undertaken on the financial viability of council.”

Cr Shaw remained in the chair while the motion was debated at the AGM, and defended himself against the charges it contained. He said he had not been involved in the bird cull, which he described as an operational matter, and he was tired of having to repeatedly state that the council’s independent investigation could only be made public once a government inquiry was completed and he had been told this could take up to 18 months but was expected early this year.

Cr Shaw said he had not once been the subject of a formal complaint by a staff member and he rejected the assertion that he had ever spoken about a review of the council’s financial viability.

Ten other resolutions from the December AGM will be put to this week’s council meeting for consideration by councillors, with the following recommendations by the acting general manager:

  • That the council notes the following resolution passed at the AGM, moved by Mr James Graham, seconded by Mr Russell Alphey: “That council lobby the Hodgman Government to secure two or  more of the new strategic charging stations and for the Derwent Valley Council to consider preparing Council for EV take-up to help reduce emissions and cost” and determines any further action necessary.
  • That the council notes the following resolution passed at the AGM, moved Mr Stephen Mackey, seconded Mr Wayne Shoobridge: “That the council through the Local Government  Association of Tasmania (LGAT) attempt through Hobart City Council to make their [Single Use Plastic Containers] By-Law a Model By-Law which can be used by all councils in the state” and determines any further action necessary.
  • That the council notes the following resolution passed at the AGM, moved by Mr S. Mackey, seconded by Mr W. Shoobridge: “That residents, ratepayers and councillors present tonight at  the Derwent Valley Council Annual General Meeting move a vote of no confidence in the mayor of the Derwent Valley Council and following the outcome of this vote if passed the mayor step down from the role” and determines any further action necessary. (Mr Barrett adds here that the council has no legal power under the Local Government Act 199 3 to give effect to the resolution).
  • That the council notes the following resolution passed at the AGM, moved by Mr Wayne Shoobridge, seconded by Mr Dave Curtis: “That the council invest in new recording  equipment and PA system and have it operational before the February 2020 council meeting” and determines any further action necessary.
  • That the council notes the following resolution passed at the AGM, moved by Mr Wayne Shoobridge, seconded by Mr David Bromfield: “That from this point on in council agendas for the regular monthly meetings that it contains an attendance record for every elected member  for council meetings including closed, special meetings including closed, workshops and  council committees” and determines any further action necessary.
  • That the council notes the following resolution passed at the AGM, moved by Mr Darren Graham, seconded by Mr Len Butterworth: “that the council reinstate the public open sessions prior to the commencement of the monthly council meetings [and] reinstate the ability for the community to have a public open session prior to councillor workshops” and determines any further action necessary.
  • That the council notes the following resolution passed at the AGM, moved by Mr Chris Lester, seconded by Mr Dave Curtis: “that the council request the Director of Local Government to provide them with workshops on the role of councillors particularly in relation to their interactions with staff” and determines any further action necessary.
  • That the council notes the following resolution passed at the AGM, moved by Mr Chris Lester, seconded by Mr Darren Graham: “that the council release to the public the information provided by the council’s solicitor in regards to the geese cull,” and determines any further action necessary.
  • That the council notes the following resolution passed at the AGM, moved by Mrs Rachel Power, seconded by Mr James Graham: “that the council create and adopt a policy and ongoing strategy for climate resilience by the 2020 AGM; that the policy and strategy includes but not be limited to a) Planning, b) Zoning, c) Infrastructure, d) Emergency Response, e) Community education, f) Mitigation, g) Communication, h) Future-proofing our natural assets, i) Improving river resilience across the municipality; and that the policy is adopted by the council by the 2020 AGM” and determines any further action necessary.
  • That the council notes the following resolution passed at the AGM, moved by Mrs Anne Salt, seconded by Mrs Vivienne deBrassic: “that the council implement Action 126 of the Strategic Plan – develop and implement a master plan for the Willow Court Precinct. In consultation with the Derwent Valley community and address the issue of what will happen to many of the valuable artefacts that are in storage in various sites around the Derwent Valley and Willow Court site” and determines any further action necessary.

The January council meeting will be held in the Courthouse, Circle St, New Norfolk, at 6pm this Thursday. The agenda documents are available online and in hardcopy from the council offices.

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