Council dispute: ‘Waiting for help that never comes’

A BRIEF apology from mayor Loueen Triffitt published in two newspapers today had not gone far enough, Central Highlands councillor Robert Cassidy said this afternoon. Cr Cassidy said he was not the council’s spokesperson but from his perspective the apology was not satisfactory.

In notices placed in today’s issues of The Mercury and New Norfolk and Derwent Valley News, Cr Triffitt said she was formally apologising for the allegation of “probable collusion or corruption” and criticism of fellow councillors at a special meeting on April 5.

Cr Cassidy said the mayor had not originally used the word “probable” when alleging corruption and collusion among eight councillors.

He was particularly concerned that the mayor’s allegations had been published on the front page of The Mercury but the apology was on page 21 and did not retract all the points made in an article on April 15 which was headed “Mayor’s fury” and continued inside the paper. “The council was brought into disrepute and good reputations were besmirched beyond the borders of our municipality. That is unacceptable,” he said.

The only way to resolve the situation was for the director of local government to intervene, Cr Cassidy said, noting he had made his own recommendations to the acting director. “It is entirely up to the office of the director of local government to either allow ‘business as usual’ as it has persisted for the past seven years, or actually work to facilitate us serving the best interests of our municipality,” he said.

“Over the past decade, serving as a councillor, I have freely shared my observations and thoughts to the current and former ministers for local government [and] the current and former directors of local government on how to improve Local Government,” he said. “They preferred to waste two years and $3 million of taxpayer money for a Future of Local Government Review, instead. Mostly, I feel like I am stranded in the bush calling out for rescue that never comes.”

Cr Cassidy said the council remained functional and was serving the ratepayers well, but the underlying issue needed to be resolved. “We have continued to serve the ratepayers and residents of the Central Highlands municipality with the respect they deserve and in their best interest, doing our utmost to move forward.”

He cited the monthly meeting on April 16 as an example of a productive meeting, as well as a budget workshop held on April 30 where eight councillors and the management team had worked productively, “putting our minds together to make budget cuts whilst still providing amenities.”

See more Derwent Valley and Central Highlands news online and read our print edition every second Friday.

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