THREE Warrnambool City councillors who walked out of a scheduled debate on paying airfares for the mayor and chief executive to attend Miura sister-city celebrations have defended their actions and will not apologise.
A day after their controversial tactic which left the council without a quorum to discuss a notice of motion to rescind an early refusal for payment, the trio met Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell in Melbourne.
Yesterday they would not disclose what was discussed in the meeting they said had been prearranged earlier.
“It went well,” said Cr Peter Sycopoulis. “We discussed a range of issues.”
Cr Sycopoulis initiated Monday’s walkout when he attempted to read a statement, claiming he could exercise his right because of a “pre-determined position” on the issue
Cr Peter Hulin acknowledged he was with councillors Sycopoulis and Brian Kelson for the meeting with Ms Powell.
“Businesses and citizens of Warrnambool are facing enormous challenges dealing with the present economic situation and require strong leadership to capitalise on the huge potential of our city,” Cr Hulin said.
“This is my number-one priority and I will not be distracted from it.”
Cr Kelson said he had nothing more to add, other than “we will keep you informed”.
Earlier yesterday mayor Michael Neoh told ABC Radio that Monday night’s meeting drama was a “preplanned theatre to walk out”.
“The reasons they gave only apply to planning decisions … I think they probably owe the community an apology,” Cr Neoh said.
Later he explained his views to The Standard, but would not be drawn on suggestions the walkout may have been illegal.
“If they left the chamber on the basis of ill-informed advice I think the community would expect an apology given they didn’t stay for the vote,” Cr Neoh said.
“I don’t think you can go out on a reason that didn’t have good grounds when a vote should have been taken.” Cr Neoh and chief executive Bruce Anson also met Ms Powell in Melbourne yesterday while attending a regional cities conference.
The mayor said they outlined the council’s work on strategic growth plans, governance and democratic process.
“We told her we wanted to continue our good work without distraction,” he said.
“Seventy to 80 per cent of our resolutions are passed unanimously.”
At the weekend Cr Neoh and Mr Anson will fly to Japan with their wives at their own expense for three days of commitments at Miura ceremonies, which start early next week.
Six other Warrnambool delegates will also go to Miura at their own expense: Miura friendship group founders David and Fumiko McKenzie, city councillor Rob Askew and his wife plus city council growth director Bill Millard and his wife.
Mr McKenzie told The Standard he was bemused by the council’s September 9 vote not to pay up to $4000 towards Cr Neoh and Mr Anson’s travel expenses.
“I thought it was rather petty,” Mr McKenzie said.