Mayor defends council against purge call

An extensive list of guidelines adopted on a 3-2 vote last July compels all seven councillors to work harmoniously for the community.

An extensive list of guidelines adopted on a 3-2 vote last July compels all seven councillors to work harmoniously for the community.

COMMUNITY criticism of Warrnambool City Council infighting has opened up questions on how councillors follow their own code of conduct.

Warrnambool businesswoman Raelene Ponting stirred the pot this week by calling for a purge of the current seven-member council as she announced her intention to run for the 2016 council elections.

An extensive list of guidelines adopted on a 3-2 vote last July compels all seven councillors to work harmoniously for the community. Three did not put their signatures to the document.

Councillors Brian Kelson and Peter Sycopoulis exercised their right not to sign and voted against the code, saying they were not comfortable because their suggested clarifications were not included.

Cr Peter Hulin, who was on a leave of absence on voting night, also did not sign it while Cr Jacinta Ermacora, who was also away, did sign.

Mayor Michael Neoh yesterday denied his team was in disarray.

“The 4-3 divide issue is a beat-up,” he said.

“The majority of decisions go through unanimously.”

He said the main cause of   perceptions of disunity was some councillors regularly complaining about issues already decided by a democratic vote.

Cr Neoh said Mrs Ponting’s suggested purge was akin to sacking a whole state government because of a few unruly  individual MPs.

According to the code, “councillors may have legitimate differences of opinion on issues, but should value this diversity and manage it in the best interests of the community”.

Mrs Ponting said the councillors were elected to govern, but argued like children.

“Our council is broken,” she said earlier this week. 

Cr Sycopoulis said Mrs Ponting made a valid point and her call for a purge was similar to what he and councillors Kelson and Hulin suggested to former Local Government Minister Jeannette Powell after a controversial city council vote on the Miura sister city issue last October.

“If Mrs Ponting or anyone else wants to run for council they need to start attending council meetings to know what really happens,” he said.

Cr Kelson said Mrs Ponting’s comments were misguided and if council meetings were live-streamed she could then comment based on facts.

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