Raining apologies

Photo by energepic.com from Pexels

by Brooke Haffenden

THE City of Whittlesea’s council meeting again had to be adjourned due to the absence of councillors.

With several important items on the agenda, including nine rescission notices of motion, the last meeting of the year on Tuesday, December 12 was thrown into disarray with apologies almost reaching epidemic proportions.

While Cr Tom Joseph is on leave, council received apologies on the Tuesday from councillors Ricky Kirkham, Mary Lalios, Norm Kelly, Alahna Desiato and Caz Monteleone.

As council was unable to have a quorum, the meeting was adjourned to last night, Monday, December 18 as per Meeting Procedure Local Law. Following last month’s council meeting, which saw two councillors removed and two walk out, many disgruntled community members at Tuesday’s meeting saw it as a deliberate boycott by the five absent councillors.

Three of the councillors who failed to attend told the Whittlesea Review they had legitimate reasons for their apologies, citing work commitments and personal/family matters. Councillors Kirkham and Lalios did not respond to calls for comment. Councillors Desiato and Monteleone said they were not surprised people assumed the councillors were absent as a protest given the way the last meeting was run.

“The last meeting was an absolute joke. Some councillors tried to ram through items such as the Plenty Valley Town Centre Structure Plan and the intersection upgrade for Lyndarum Drive,” Cr Desiato said.

“Residents who attended this meeting wanted further consultation and were clearly upset with the poor decisions made by the majority. These decisions will impact the residents in a huge way. These councillors refused to listen to the residents whom they are representing.”

“People are assuming it’s a protest because poor decisions are being made at council, decisions that are hurting the community and defy common sense. Some councillors are putting politics ahead of the community and that’s unacceptable,” Cr Monteleone said.
Mayor, Cr Kris Pavlidis said she was disappointed by the absent councillors ‘poor behaviour’.

“Is this the kind of conduct our residents can expect and accept by elected representatives, particularly the president of the MAV,” Cr Pavlidis questioned.”

“Regardless of what’s on the agenda, as an elected representative we have a responsibility to turn up and do the best we can for our constituents.”

“We had to adjourn council business, which includes a whole range of issues which impacts on the broader community.

“Part of being in this role is attending council meetings and representing our constituency. It isn’t a game; our residents deserve a lot better.”

Former councillor Rex Griffin, who served the City of Whittlesea from 1990 to 2016, was in attendance last Tuesday and said it was ‘absolutely disgraceful’ to see the meeting adjourned due to no quorum.

“All councillors sign a document that they will serve the community but to not show up with a gallery full of people wondering what’s going on… it’s appalling,” he said.

“Councillors not prepared to show up should leave. It won’t be long before administrators come in.’

“The signed a pledge to serve the community and if they’re not prepared to serve the community they should get out. Alright you get defeated but you show up. You put your hand up to be loyal and serve the community in all ways.”

Member for Yan Yean Danielle Green raised concerns over the meeting in Parliament last Thursday.

Ms Green told the Whittlesea Review the actions of the absent councillors “denied quorum and disrupted the good governance of the Whittlesea Council, ensuring council business could not proceed”.

“The actions of these councillors, who vote as a block, left community members present disappointed in their LGA representatives … these members of the council are exhibiting some very troubling behaviour,” she said.

“I believe the Whittlesea Council must begin streaming their council meetings online as soon as possible to increase accountability to ratepayers. Residents in Whittlesea deserve much better.”