Monitor council plea

By Joshua Wells

THE City of Whittlesea Council will formally ask the government to request a municipal monitor for six months after a heated special meeting on Tuesday, May 8.

The special meeting was called by Cr Alahna Desiato, Cr Caz Monteleone and Cr Ricky Kirkham to review the council’s processes for 18 months – a move which appeared to have unanimous support.

The call for the review was made amid concerns, which were expressed multiple times throughout the meeting, centring on council’s decision-making processes and an alleged bias from Mayor Kris Pavlidis, along with a potential issue with the way the February 6 meeting was closed.

The concerns were summed up by Cr Monteleone, who told the gallery at the beginning of the meeting that the council was ‘mediocre’, with constant infighting.
“I would love to stand and gloat about the council, but I can’t and won’t,” he said.
“We are mediocre at best… I have witnessed countless decisions which could cause ratepayers distress.

“Why? Because we can. How can we be a voice when some councillors come with closed minds?”

The motion to introduce the monitor was eventually passed, six votes to four, although the time frame for the monitor was watered down from the initial 18-month period to six months.

The four councillors to vote against it were Cr Kirkham, Cr Desiato, Cr Monteleone and Cr Norm Kelly.

The adopted motion included an amendment, moved by Cr Lawrie Cox, to have the reasons for introducing a monitor expressly stated on the record.

The main points focused on unruly behaviour with constant interjections, the use of media statements and failure to adhere to code of conduct, and meeting, guidelines.

“I think we need to expand on what the problems are,” Cr Cox said.

“This is not a dysfunctional council. The unruly behaviour since the mayor was elected… is the problem.”

Cr Kirkham interjected to seek advice, from the mayor, about the proposed change to the motion, leading Cr Cox to argue this was typical of one of the issues he was referring to.

However, Cr Kirkham said the issues were widespread throughout the council and not aimed at any particular councillors.

“The intent of this motion is to focus on our council. There are processes in place to hold people to account,” he said.

“To amend this, I think it goes beyond the merit of why we are here.

“I find it laughable six people here think they are beyond reproach.”

Cr Tom Joseph stood to throw his support behind the motion to request a monitor but was concerned of the cost to ratepayers.

“I support the motion calling for a monitor. Now, Madam Mayor, how did we come to this situation? Since your election we have a group of Councillors… who are hell bent on disrupting the functioning of the council meetings,” he said.

“Why? Because they are finding it hard to accept that what works in a democracy is the majority decision making.

“It will cost the rate payers to have a monitor $30,000 a month.”

When the amended motion was passed, Mayor Pavlidis expressed her disappointment and defended her past actions.

“I feel embarrassed as mayor of the day,” she said in summary.

“After several warnings, we do ask people to leave chambers.

“At the end of the day, we usually have a thick agenda to get through.”