‘Boycott’ over absent councillor’s lost vote

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Cr Bolam said he made the decision “with a heavy heart” to protest at the mayor Cr Brian Cunial’s decision to refuse deferral of a matter that Cr Lillian O’Connor had asked be dealt with at the 14 August meeting – instead of tonight’s meeting – as she will be overseas.

“Cr O’Connor cannot attend as she will be oversees with her family and celebrating her birthday,” Cr Bolam said.

Her absence means she won’t be able to vote on a rescission motion: Independence of the Notice of Motion Process and Independent Costings, which will jeopardise the 5–3 decision voted in on 5 July.

Cr Bolam’s stand has been supported by Cr Glenn Aitken who said last Thursday he also would not attend the meeting “on moral grounds”.

This takes the number of possible attendees to six out of nine, meaning the meeting will still have a quorum.

However, Cr Cunial said in a statement that a request at the 10 July meeting to reschedule the 24 July ordinary meeting “due to the unavoidable absence of a councillor” had been considered.

“According to the council’s Governance Local Law (Meeting Procedures), this does not constitute ‘exceptional circumstances’, therefore the meeting date could not be changed,” he said.

“Staff have prepared for the 24 July meeting to proceed as publicly advertised and [as] scheduled at the November 2016 statutory meeting.

“Councillors have a responsibility to attend ordinary meetings unless circumstances prevent them from doing so.”

Cr Bolam said that, among a raft of directives, the contentious notice of motion called for a review of the councillor code of conduct, adoption of a new Meeting Local Law, the need for the CEO to create a new system for councillors to gain independent costings on ambiguous price tags for new initiatives, and a moratorium on written staff commentary/interference surrounding notices of motion.

Cr Bolam said “fair and procedural justice has not been afforded to Cr O’Connor”.

“I cannot be complicit to a meeting that effectively ignores the will of an elected representative,” he said. “Cr O’Connor’s voice isn’t being respected so I’m not going to legitimise this meeting by attending. I do not have time for petty games and neither does the city.”

Cr Bolam believed the timing of the rescission motion aimed to “intentionally undermine the clear and democratic vote” by taking advantage of Cr O’Connor’s absence and allowing the minority of councillors an opportunity to rescind the council’s previous 5–3 decision.

He said that decision “remains supported by the majority of councillors but is now endangered due to her absence”.

Cr Bolam is this week touring Bright in northeast Victoria as a guest of Alpine Shire Council mayor Cr Ron Janas.

While there he will discuss Frankston’s potential re-entry into the Municipal Association of Victoria and be briefed on Alpine Shire’s enterprise bargaining agreement “which was successfully finalised some weeks ago”.

Cr Bolam said the visit was arranged “after I decided not to attend the council meeting”.

Cr Aitken said: “What they are doing is using the notice of motion as a political tool to get a desired outcome.

“It was a majority decision and they are taking the opportunity to change the vote.

“The bigger question is governance. The mayor must realise that the situation evolved under him. It could have been averted; a crisis could have been averted.”

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