|Cr Ben Shaw.
DERWENT Valley mayor Ben Shaw has rejected a fellow councillor’s call for him to resign from the role and test his public support at a by-election.
During councillor question time at the January council meeting, Cr Paul Belcher called on Cr Shaw to resign as mayor following several adverse motions being approved at last year’s annual general meeting.
“Mr Mayor, at the AGM there was concern from ratepayers that you should step down from your role as mayor,” Cr Belcher said. “You keep on saying that you was elected by the the people … but if you still think you get the support Mr Mayor from the members of the public, why don’t you resign from mayor, call for a by-election and we’ll have a re-run for mayor.”
Cr Shaw was brief in his reply. “Yeah, nah, thanks for your invitation,” he said. Cr Belcher said he was just asking the question, and Cr Shaw said he was just giving his answer. “Thanks for the invitation,” he repeated.
Cr Shaw was elected mayor in October 2018, edging out Cr Belcher by 25 votes after the exclusion of the other candidates. Cr Shaw received 2004 votes and Cr Belcher 1979 votes. The order was reversed in the election for councillor, which saw Cr Belcher the most popular candidate with 854 votes, just ahead of Cr Shaw’s 847.
The council annual general meeting held in December saw the majority of electors present voting for Cr Shaw to stand aside as mayor until independent investigations were held into the culling of birdlife at Tynwald Park last year and alleged bullying of staff, and that two residents or ratepayers be allowed to address the council’s audit panel.
The majority of those at the AGM also voted in favour of a resolution that if the above requests were not met, the meeting expressed its lack of confidence in the mayor and called for him to step down from the role.
Speaking from the chair at the AGM and at last month’s council meeting, Cr Shaw rejected the assertions that he had interfered with operational matters or bullied staff.
During question time at the January meeting, ratepayer Di Cowburn asked whether the council could establish a committee to look into the allegations of mayoral interference in operational matters.
Acting general manager Brian Barrett said it would be highly unusual for a council to do this when it had no evidence of interference. “I can say to you as members of the public that I’ve been the acting general manager since November and I have not experienced interference by the mayor in the operations of council,” he said.
“This is the second time members of the public have talked about alleged interference and I’m not sure who you’re talking about, or who you were talking to, or where these allegations are coming from but if they were presented to me I would actually act on them,” Mr Barrett said.
From the public gallery, former councillor Wayne Shoobridge said the complaints were from before Mr Barrett’s time with the council. Mr Barrett replied:” OK, well I can only act on what I’ve got in front of me.”
Cr Shaw said he had answered the allegations more than once. “I’ve answered it, I answered it at the AGM, I answered it again and its been answered again tonight. You’re going off rumour and innuendo. There is no allegation, there’s no formal complaints and there never has been, against interference from the mayor in any operational matters,” he said. “I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, and the general manager’s just confirmed it. So we just keep raising things just for the sake of raising them because we’ve got a personal issue…”
Mrs Cowburn said she was not asking the question as a personal issue or just because she could. “It’s something that I believe, that is very hard to prove,” she said. Cr Shaw said matters were not hard to prove when there was a basis for a complaint or somebody had evidence. This led Mr Shoobridge to ask whether or not there had been a letter of complaint.
|A media report referred to at the council meeting.
Cr Shaw: “Who did it come from? Who wrote it? Who instigated it?
Mr Shoobridge: “The staff.”
Cr Shaw: “How do we know that?”
Mr Shoobridge: “Well it was in the Press, Mr Mayor. It was investigated by reporters.”
Cr Shaw: “No it wasn’t investigated.”
Dave Curtis: “It was on the ABC too.”
Cr Shaw: “Um, that’s credible.”
Cr Shaw then called for the next question from the public gallery. This came from Anne Stephenson, who asked why the mayor had remained in the room while he was the subject of a no-confidence meeting at the annual general meeting. “I found that it was a conflict of interest. You should have left the room because … there was no impartiality to the voting system because you were in the room when people were voting,” Mrs Stephenson said.
Cr Shaw said he would take Mrs Stephenson’s remarks as her person opinion. “From an AGM’s point of view there is no guidelines or set of rules for that to happen. I didn’t believe that I needed to leave the chair and leave the room. It’s a public open meeting. I’m just chairing the meeting as as the mayor or as the person who gets the chance to chair a meeting, but it’s just a public open meeting. So normal meeting procedures don’t actually apply.”