Marathon meetings are a temper trap

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FRANKSTON Council’s monthly public council meetings have become mired in lengthy debates about individual councillors’ notice of motions.

Councillors have lodged 37 notices in motions over three scheduled monthly meetings since the new council was elected in November last year.

Meetings have been unable to be completed in one sitting twice – in December and January – meaning councillors returned to the council chamber to continue the debate later the same week.

January’s marathon meeting, held over two evenings, ran for about seven hours.

At one point late in the second evening’s proceedings mayor Cr Brian Cunial, the meeting chair, temporarily adjourned the meeting to give councillors “a five-minute break” as tempers began to fray so he could talk to them behind closed doors before resuming the meeting.

Cr Kris Bolam objected immediately before the meeting break when Cr Sandra Mayer indicated she would leave the meeting and “go home” if a proposal to thank lifesavers for their voluntary efforts, eventually agreed upon, was not backed by councillors.

The debate to thank lifesavers came after a majority of councillors rejected a notice of motion proposing council ask the state government to pay lifesavers for patrolling beaches during the summer months.

Notice of motion subjects have included a proposal to host a civic reception for firefighters – voted down in favour of sending a letter of appreciation with a council seal instead – and a suggestion to teach the history of Frankston in local primary schools.

Council will write to the Victorian Department of Education about adding local history to schools’ curriculum.

A notice of motion at January’s meeting by Cr Bolam to have council’s internal ombudsman investigate whether all successful notice of motions by councillors during the past eight years had been actioned and completed was voted down 4-5 by councillors on the basis it would cost about $20,000 worth of council officers’ time and would involve analysing about 1300 notices of motion.

Crs Bolam, Glenn Aitken, Quinn McCormack and Lillian O’Connor backed an audit of NOMs. Crs Cunial, Colin Hampton, Mayer, Michael O’Reilly and Steve Toms opposed the investigation.

Councillors will now be advised of the progress of council resolutions resulting from notices of motion under a new system agreed by councillors late last year.

First published in the Frankston Times – 13 February 2017

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