Local, Opinion/Comment

Are our elected council representatives and senior staff being ‘fair dinkum?’

We would like Gurmesh Singh – MP, Shelley Hancock MP, Andrew Fraser and State Planning Minister, Rob Stokes, to look into what we say below.

We also suggest The Coffs Coast Advocate, and ABC Coffs Coast should follow this up too.

Written by, and published on behalf of, the Citizens Voice Group

In August 2019, Councillor Townley asked council staff to do a peer review of the council’s long-term financial plan and debt portfolio. We have provided the link to the council minutes where it was approved 5 votes to at the bottom of this post.. This was based around some very serious decisions passed by councillors a month prior re the DA for Gordon Street.

That was close to six months ago!

It is hard to believe that there has been no report back to councillors.

This coming Thursday, 13 February, Councillors are being asked to vote on three significant contracts to be awarded for this very project.

They will be binding contracts that bind our community and its public funds to works on a DA that is:

1. Yet to be approved. And probably at best 3 months away from being at a stage where it may go up for approval or denial, and
2. Is yet to have the peer review done.

Councillor Townley was asked at a council meeting in November, when a member of the public spoke in a public submission prior to the normal council meeting, when this peer review would be done.

No Councillor, or any of the council staff present, answered the question.

The Mayor, Denise Knight on at least three occasions in last three months on a tied vote has followed the correct Coffs Harbour City Council meeting and procedures policy and allowed a motion to lapse or be defeated because the vote was tied.

Prior to that she was using her casting vote, or her second vote, to pass very significant council resolutions.

We would hope that the Mayor stays consistent should voting be tied this coming Thursday night and lets motions be defeated if in fact they are tied again.

What will the Mayor do if votuing is tied at a Council meeting again this Thursday 13 February?

She would lose any credibility she has left if she decided to go back to her old ways!

We are not talking about small amounts of expenditure here. It would be conservative in saying that the three contracts would be in excess of five million dollars.

We will not know the figure however as it will be cloaked as being ‘commercial in confidence.’

We have included the Coffs council code of meeting practice:
– Code of Meeting Practice for Coffs Harbour City Council – 11 Voting, Page 20 –:- https://www.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au/…/Code%20of%20Meeting%2…

How can councillors pass a significant amount of expenditure ($5Million plus) for a DA that is in so much contention and still has not had the peer review done that was voted for?

Where’s the ‘peer review’ gone Councillors?

There have been 15,000 plus petition signatures against the proposal and
850 plus letters of objection to the DA.

The DA has a long long way to be approved yet some councillors are seriously considering pushing ahead by approving a DA for demolition works and worse are considering approving public ratepayer funds to expend on consultants on works that have a strong possibility of not being approved!

Council staff have asked for an extension of time to respond to the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment re the objections, yet they apparently they have had enough time to do the tenders for consultants for the development.

It makes no commercial sense and makes no equitable sense to make decisions in this fashion.

In fact, we would go as far as to say that any councillor that passes the matters before them on Thursday night re Gordon Street could well be actuing negligently.

We would hope that councillors are smart enough not to approve these large amounts of public funds at this time.

We would suggest that all councillors, especially councillor Townley who voted for the peer review, absolutely do not vote for the proposed expenditure!

Councillors should be putting pressure on staff and demanding that the peer review be presented to council so they can have a stronger understanding of when the DA is likely to come before the State Planning Department for approval.

Here’s the link to the council minutes from the August meeting wherein Cr townley’s peer review request was approved; https://infocouncil.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au/…/CO_20190822_M…

And here’s a 2014 ABC article and interview with the Mayor wherein she talks about the importance of an Entertainment Centre; https://www.abc.net.au/local/audio/2014/04/11/3983388.htm?fbclid=IwAR2NSQaEUIcJ7N0viF-udQSFeMalolOWfhK2t_LTbJc_TpfR07Gx28Rw1Bw

And here is the interview the Mayor had with Fi Poole of the ABC in 2014 that is referred to in the above link;

12 Comments

  1. For Goodness Sake surely the elected Councillors cannot commit to allow this amount of money’s to be locked in to a contract when the D A is still being investigated by the State Government .

  2. I note the first motion at least was placed on the agenda for this Thursday’s meeting by the GM of the Council.

    Yet he was instructed nearly 6 months ago to do a peer review. Now the why’s and how’s, and yes the who is to do it, of that peer review remain shrouded in mystery.

    But in my humble opinion, in order to be useful, it must be done before any votes on contracts that are carried out without proper due dilligence and the full facts being available to Councillors. To go ahead and vote for these motions could possibly even place those who vote for them in breach of the Local Government Act could it not? Past questions about the independence of who carries out the peer review still apply at this point in time of course.

    No, our senior council staff and some elected couincillors do not appear in any way to be behaving in a manner that can be described as ‘fair dinkum’.

    It would appear that they are acting in quite the opposite way in my opinion. ‘Taking the mickey’ is more like it!

    I believe it is way past time for a metaphorical ‘wire brush and dettol’ to be used on this council.

  3. Tom Strickland

    If our Mayor has discovered that Council’s ‘Code of Conduct’ provides for the declaration of a ‘motion lost’ when arriving at an equal vote, what is the legal position with decisions previously carried on her casting vote?

    Surely these decisions are invalid! Are we not compelled to rectify this breach of Council’s Code of Conduct?

    • Graeme Sheehan

      According to the Code of Meeting Practice (see link above) it appears exercising a deciding vote IS allowable when there is an equality of votes.
      Confusion arose following a recent poorly worded report in the Advocate which seemed to imply that using a deciding vote somehow breached council’s ‘code of conduct’. This is incorrect.

      The reason the mayor has recently declined to use her deciding vote during motions put forward by councillors against the CCCC, is because she didn’t need two votes for them to fail, because according to the Code of Conduct of Meetings, a tied vote means a motion is lost.

      Unfortunately I’m sure the mayor will have no hesitation in exercising a deciding vote again if required to progress the CCCC.

  4. I could not think who Denise Knight reminded me of in that photo above.

    It dawned on me, she is a caricature of that one in “I Dream of Jeannie”.I hope I did not spoil somebody’s favourite TV show , sorry but I did laugh.

    • With respect, John Cleese, you need to have some eyesight testing to compare Denise with “I Dream of Jeannie”. View the TV programme ‘Botched’ to see some close matches. Possibly, there’s a bit of Michael Jackson resemblance.

    • …well I for one would put her back in the bottle, throw it back in the ocean and hope it washes up on some deserted island….

  5. Matt Kilpatrick

    Has anyone else noticed on the numerous Coffs Harbour based Facebook pages discussing the proposed monstrosity to be built in Gordon Street that more than a few supporters of the proposal appear to identify as Greens?

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-Green, but I do wonder how they square this support with what is apparent to everyone else and that is the ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink deals’ that seem to have been done with Cex by Council in the opinion of many.

    I ask this because below I reproduce the Greens policy on gambling and gaming for your edification;

    “Most forms of gambling are legal in NSW, and may be considered a form of entertainment. However, The Greens NSW recognise that gambling can cause considerable harm to individuals and communities. This policy aims to minimise that harm.

    Principles

    1. Gambling addiction and the harm it causes is a public health issue that negatively affects individuals, families and communities. Policy at all levels of government should aim to reduce gambling harm.

    2. Poker machines and other forms of electronic gaming machines should be restricted to casinos and removed from clubs and hotels.

    3. The ability of gambling interests to influence political parties, regulatory bodies and election outcomes should be minimised through strong laws and penalties. We recognise that to date successful NSW governments have failed to address the problems caused by gambling because they have been heavily influenced by the industry and because they have succumbed to the conflict of interest created by being both industry regulator and beneficiary of gambling tax revenue.

    4. Profits from gambling should be tightly controlled and taxed to reduce negative social impacts and to ensure that the public interest is put before profit making.

    5. Gambling advertising should be restricted to ensure the exposure of children to inappropriate gambling messages is minimised.

    6. Any new gambling technology or service introduced in NSW must have a neutral or beneficial impact as assessed against public health and gambling harm criteria.

    7. Communities, through council planning instruments, should have the ability to control the location and density of gambling venues and electronic gaming machines.”

    See; https://greens.org.au/nsw/policies/gambling

  6. With respect John Christie,cut me some slack!! My mates often have a crack at me saying “You need to go to Specsavers mate”

  7. It would be insane for any Councillor to vote on any issue related to Knight’s Palace, until such time as all concerns regarding the project have been addressed, to the satisfaction of the community. Why would they do such a thing?

    Why would Denise Knight revert to her habit of using her casting vote in a technically legal, but wholly immoral and reprehensible manner, to push through motions which she deems favourable to her cause?

    The answer to each of these questions is the same; it’s because they/she can.

  8. Tom Strickland

    Last night’s Council meeting was a nightmare! Blatant disrespect for the will of our citizens!

    Debate clearly demonstrated that there was no valid reason to spend millions of dollars and escalate approval of the proposed contracts, when the whole project has the potential of being rejected – and has no D.A. approval!
    The Mayor – who in last weeks Advocate quoted the Code of Conduct to mean that a four : four vote = “motion lost” – reverted to using her infamous casting vote to defy the will of the people.

    Anger in the gallery reached alarming new heights, as citizen speakers were insulted during questions and shouted down by the Chair. Two Councillors engaged in plaintiff personal bleating that transcended the crucial business of the meeting.

    Our senior public servants struggled to deliver intelligible answers to Councillor’s questions. With a voting deadlock, our Councillors are powerless to govern.

    The future of our city is hinging on the whimsical “casting vote” of the Chair of this, our dysfunctional Council! We have good reason to be concerned.

  9. As this is a major project, major funding, a deciding vote by one person being the Mayor or not is not good enough especially when there are 15,000+ community members who disagree with the go ahead of such an unwanted building.

    We know there are many against the building. How many really want it?

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