On 5 March 2013 in a 25 minute radio interview with Jack Traynor Coffs Harbour Mayor Knight discussed why she left a Council meeting that was discussing and voting on proposals for Brelsford Park.
The Mayor explained she left the meeting because she had declared a pecuniary interest due to the fact she owned a unit in the CBD.
That 25 minute interview can be heard here.
There is no argument that what Mayor Knight did in this instance was right. Then Councillor Bob Palmer also excluded himself from the same vote for very similar reasons too.
It is just that what is and what isn’t a pecuniary interest, especially in relation to the CBD, seems to be an issue of much debate. Particularly after the recent 4/4 tied votes on the proposed Cultural Centre and new Council Chambers.
Indeed some in the community are saying the issue of what is and what isn’t a pecuniary interest seems to have become ‘a moveable feast’ at council meetings recently.
The Coffs Coast Outlook is aware of numerous formal complaints sent to the Minister of Local Government, Shelly Hancock, since last Thursday’s 8 August council meeting where Mayor Knight controversially used her casting vote to vote for the proposed building in Gordon Street.
One of those letters to the Minister states that a reason for the formal request for a Section 430 Investigation into Council’s handling of the votes around Gordon Street is because of;
“Concern that one of the elected representatives may have breached the Council’s Code of Conduct in not disclosing a pecuniary conflict of interest in the Council’s decisions for approving and undertaking the continuation of the Project.”
Another letter which was sent to all Councillors and the Minister by email from a ratepayer on 7 August asks if the General Manager has referred the complaints against a Councillor to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), as required under S.11 of the ICAC Act and in accord with Section 5.20 of the 2018 Model Code of for Local Councils in NSW.
The ICAC reference refers to the General Manager being present at the Council meeting on 25 July last when an elected representative admitted to holding discussions with a potential purchaser for the publicly owned asset known as Rigby House.
The model code reference pertains to perceived conflicts of interest issues.
Why is this important?
This is important because in many people’s minds there is a question about why something that seemed ‘cut and dry’ in March 2013 seems to have changed by August 2019 and that transparency seems to have been lost.
The question for many is what has made the mayor change when it comes to what is and what isn’t a pecuniary interest?