Councillors rebuff 'transparency' bid with lack of a vote
SIX very cold shoulders have been shown to a Noosa councillor after she moved a motion to publicly post the council's general committee meeting minutes online.
Not one of Ingrid Jackson's elected colleagues was prepared to second a move she said was to enhance council transparency.
That meant her proposal for full disclosure of the minutes, including voting outcomes, lapsed and was not debated.
"My motion was about increasing transparency and to give the public greater access to the deliberations of council,” Cr Jackson said.
"It was also about fixing the breach of law. It seems that Noosa's mayor and the rest of the councillors wouldn't have a bar of it.”
However, one council source said Cr Jackson's notice of motion at last Thursday's ordinary meeting was unusual and meant the councillors were being asked to decide something without a prepared staff report.
The source said the approach Cr Jackson took also meant councillors were not afforded the opportunity to discuss and consider a recommendation thoroughly over the two-week council committee process to ensure good decision making on behalf of the community.
However, Cr Jackson said she circulated her "transparency” motion to the councillors and chief executive officer nine days ahead of time - two days more than the notice required.
Cr Jackson said: "Of all the council meetings, general committee meetings are the most important and revealing because that's where councillors ask questions, move amendments and debate the most significant and contentious matters.
"In the four years since this council was re-established, the minutes of these meetings have never been made available to the public, which appears to be a transgression of the Local Government Act.”
Cr Jackson said local government legislation required minutes be taken at all council meetings and for these to be made public.
"The law makes it possible for councils to pass a resolution exempting committees from taking minutes but Noosa Council has never done that,” she said.
"Noosa Council committee meetings are open to the public but very few attend, so most people never find out what was debated.
"While all committee meeting recommendations go to ordinary meetings for formal resolution, at those there is mostly little or no debate,” she said.
CEO Brett de Chastel defended the council's practices but said councillors needed "to tidy up technical compliance with the local government regulation by passing the exemption motion”.
"The council would be in breach of the legislation if our committees were delegated to make the final decision on behalf of council, but they are not,” he said.
Mayor Tony Wellington said if any councillor had suggestions about how to improve the system, the best way to advance the initiative was to first raise the idea with himself and the other councillors.
"That is how collaboration works best,” he said.
"Experience tells me that a co-operative working environment leads to the best outcomes.”
He said the council's reporting on financial and operational matters was "very transparent - more so than most other councils”.
"Anyone can see all decisions made by the council going back to the de-amalgamation in 2014.
"The Local Government Act makes provision for councils not to take minutes of committee meetings 'if the committee's only function is to advise'. Noosa Council's committee meetings simply make recommendations to our statutory ordinary meeting, which is where actual resolutions or decisions are made.”
He said the provision in the act was "arguably to prevent residents or onlookers being confused about when a council is making a final decision on any matter”.
"Compared with other councils, we rarely close our meetings to deal with confidential issues,” he said.
The mayor said it was transparency the Noosa community wanted back as part of the de-amalgamation campaign and this "we have delivered”.
"Our current committee and council meeting processes have been in place since de-amalgamation.
"All meeting agendas are online, including all of the staff reports to council.”