Cr Sycopoulis: I was involved in city’s budget process

A CITY councillor embroiled in a tussle with Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh over correct council procedure says he has been misunderstood.

The issue between Cr Peter Sycopoulis and Cr Neoh started when Cr Sycopoulis put up a notice of motion at a council meeting on June 10 calling for the council to apply for government money to reopen Warrnambool’s diving pool.

Cr Jacinta Ermacora pointed out to Cr Sycopoulis that he should have raised the diving pool issue as part of the budget process months ago.

Cr Neoh later criticised Cr Sycopoulis and fellow councillors Bran Kelson and Peter Hulin for not participating in a key April 13 budget preparation meeting.

A front-page headline in The Standard on June 12 described the non-attendance as a boycott, but all three are adamant there was no boycott, saying they had good reasons for not attending. They say The Standard’s headline was overstated.

Cr Hulin did not attend because he was at the Victorian Liberal Party’s state council, Cr Kelson had a private family issue and Cr Sycopoulis could not get off work.

Cr Sycopoulis presented The Standard with documents that, he said, proved he was engaged in the budget process and that suggestions to the contrary were unfair.

Included is a 13-page report disclosing correspondence with council officers, emails confirming his apology for non-attendance and his workplace roster. The documents also show Cr Sycopoulis, in consultation with Crs Kelson and Hulin, made several observations about the draft budget in a three-page document which he emailed to a council officer nine days after the April 13 meeting. 

All the points were responded to by Stephen Kerr, the council’s manager of financial services, on May 9 in line with the budget process.

Cr Neoh said there was a clear distinction between Cr Sycopoulis’s list of observations on the budget and a formal budget submission.

Cr Kylie Gaston was also absent from the April 13 meeting because she was interstate but made, what Cr Neoh says, was a genuine submission to council officers about her wish to see better access for residents to the Dennington shopping plaza, rather than a list of queries.

“As well as the Dennington submission, I also provided a list of queries on the draft budget,’’ Cr Gaston said on Thursday. “They are two separate, different things.’’

Cr Sycopoulis conceded that there was a difference between his list and a formal submission. 

“It is a misunderstanding, but I want to set the record straight by reiterating to those who elected me that I was involved and not disengaged,’’ he said. 

“I was elected to represent the people of this city and at no time did I think I was failing in my duties as a councillor.’’

“It is unfair that statements have been made publicly that effectively mislead the public into believing that we (Crs Sycopoulis, Kelson and Hulin) have failed in our duties as a councillor.”

n Cr Sycopoulis has written a letter to The Standard clarifying his position. It is published on page 20 today.

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