As Wingecarribee Shire Council goes to the community seeking a special rate variation of up to 46% over four years, 2ST and the Southern Highland News last week reported there was more “unrest in the chamber”.
After Council voted to move into closed session, the minutes record that Graham McLaughlin “left the Chambers, the time 7.44 pm, and retired from the Meeting.”
The next motion was to be moved by Ian Scandrett and Juliet Arkwright, who had proposed changes to the structure of some council committees.
2ST says “It happened after Councillor Gair produced an email that was written by Councillor Scandrett, which involved removing Mr. McLaughlin from the Facilities Committee.”
The SNH gives a similar version of events:
This was in response to a notice of motion put forward by Councillors Ian Scandrett and Juliet Arkwright for a change to be made to the structure of the Council Facilities Committee, which would result in Councillor Graham McLaughlin no longer representing the committee.
Cr McLaughlin has rubbished the suggestion that he left the chamber due to the email being raised. Cr McLaughlin says he is unwell and says he pre-warned fellow councillors he may not be able to stay for the whole meeting. He says he sought leave from the Mayor to leave and “whatever other councillors did after that is a matter for them”.
Before the motion was moved, the minutes say Holly Campbell and Garry Turland did leave the chamber, though they do not record detail why, only a minute or two behind Cr McLaughlin.
The SHN says Duncan Gair threatened to leave, but Cr Arkwright informed him this would leave council without a quorum and that she would report him to the local government minister. Cr Gair then moved the motion in question, which passed.
Mayor Larry Whipper said “The walkout by three Councillors was in my opinion contrived and what I feel was another attempt to delay, disrupt and distract the business of Council.”
“It is unfortunate that a minority of councillors believe that they can justify apparent attempt to bring the processes of council into disrepute,” he said. “I cautioned 4 councillors about any potential actions to leave the chamber and potentially put Council in a position where a quorum was not present.”
Cr Whipper confirmed the warnings about bring the Minister into the equation:
I also alerted all councillors to the fact that such an action could draw the attention of the Minister for Local Government. In spite of these cautions only one of the four councillors chose to stay in the chamber. Fortunately we maintained a quorum which allowed us to conclude council business.
Of the incident, Deputy Mayor Ian Scandrett said “Like the Mayor, I am very disappointed that these Councillors are not acting in the best interests of the community.”
“Council wanted to remedy the situation where some appointed Councillors don’t turn up at committees and a quorum is not achieved,” he said. “Not attending committee meetings is sending a poor message to community volunteer members and the staff”.
Cr Whipper also said recent doubts about the legitimacy of his election had been put to bed.
I can confirm that Council this week obtained a letter from the Office of Local Government(OLG) which says that despite the Mayoral election business paper not being available on Council’s website or in the libraries – and I quote – “Having undertaken a comprehensive review of this matter, on the Office’s assessment, the Council has substantially complied with its obligations under section 9 of the Local Government Act 1993.
Cr Scandrett said “Larry Whipper is going very well as Mayor and now that Council’s future is assured we will all be able to move forward on various infrastructure projects. I hope that all Councillors now focus on delivering for the community.”