Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Bob Hawkins

Is Huon council GM playing for time?

Huon Valley Guessing Games

Huon Valley Council management is waging a delaying action against the revelation of information that The Mercury’s Jessica Howard has been seeking for months.

A big test awaits Crs Lydia Eastley and Bruce Heron at Wednesday’s meeting of Huon Valley Council (February 24). Last month, both broke ranks from the usually dominant Heart of the Huon team to support a motion by the Greens’ Cr Ian Mackintosh to examine council’s credit-card activities over the past four years.

Each, it seems, decided that, to clear the air over council’s reluctance to reveal its credit card details, they would vote with Mackintosh, Mayor Peter Coad and Cr Liz Smith to pass, 5-4, the following motion (January agenda item 13.002/16):

In order to determine and review the Huon Valley Council’s resource allocation and expenditure activities, in accordance with section 28 (2) (e) of the Local Government Act 1993, a report be prepared by the General Manager for the April council meeting on all credit card payments made by the General Managers, Acting General Manager, Mayor and Acting Mayor for the past four financial years (2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16) and include all bank statements, details of each transaction and the purpose of the acquisitions made by credit card payments, and that the Governance Committee be authorised by council to oversee the production of this report for presentation to council.

Crs Ian Paul, Pav Ruzicka, Ken Studley and Mike Wilson didn’t want the credit-card details investigated.

In the interests of open local government, Mackintosh’s motion seemed pretty sensible and reasonable, and Eastley and Heron are to be congratulated for supporting this surprise move by council’s newest member to achieve transparency in at least one area of council business. (There’s little sign of a dawning of enlightenment in other nooks and crannies of council’s activities.)

Particularly significant is that it was last Friday (February 19) that Michael Stevens and Jill Taylor, appointed last September by Local Government Minister Peter Gutwein to inquire into HVC’s affairs, submitted their report.

In a media release the same day, Gutwein said he would review their report, “forward it in confidence” to HVC and, after “considering the feedback from the council and the general manager . . . I will make publicly available as much of the report as possible”.

If councillors set eyes on the report before Wednesday’s meeting, body language around the council table should be an entertainment in itself for the public gallery.

But back to the Mackintosh motion that council management is so clearly keen to stall, if not avoid completely. At the January meeting, GM Simone Watson said that it would take one staffer four weeks to meet the requirements of Mackintosh’s motion. Now, in management’s report to this Wednesday’s meeting, it asserts it could take up to $15,000-plus to produce the credit-card report — and, it claims, there’s not enough spare cash in the 2015-16 kitty to pay for it.

The management report to councillors says: “The project as detailed will take considerable resources that are not currently available within the council’s existing staffing complement. The Financial Accountant position is currently vacant. When this position is filled there will be a heavy workload on the new Financial Accountant who will require training and a settling in period, which coincides with development of the council’s 2016/2017 budget, and tender process for the new financial management system. Therefore, additional resources would be required to undertake this project which would result in a temporary additional officer. All council staff’s workload is determined each year in the Annual Plan and through individual work plans. These are not able to accommodate major projects that are not identified in the Annual Plan, such as this project.”

It then goes on to list all the anticipated costs involved in meeting what appears to be seen as a terrible impost on management by the Mackintosh motion: “recruitment and training of project officer”; “establish relevant dates for each officer and list all credit card payments as established from the Financial Management Information System”; “obtain all bank statements from archives and additional storage at the depot and copy all bank statements”; obtain all invoices and associated documents from archives and additional storage at the depot”; “record each transaction and all details on bank statements for each officer from the bank statements onto a spreadsheet in a systematic manner”; “record all transactions and all details on invoices for each officer into the spreadsheet”; “photocopy all invoices and associated documents for each transaction”; “photocopier costs (estimated)”; “from the invoices and associated documents, in conjunction with the details in the Financial Management Information System determine the purpose of the transaction and include in the spreadsheet”; “return all bank statements, invoices and associated documents to archives and the additional storage facility at the depot”; “supervision and report generation of the project”.

Council’s estimates for this lot is that it could cost from as little as $11,100 or as much as $15,075. Very precise!

Then comes a bit of pure gobbledegook: “In line with council’s Financial Management Strategy and Long Term Financial Plan and council’s commitment to always have a balanced budget, a budget line item needs to be identified to accommodate the budget transfer.”

For a council that gambled away $4 million on collateral debt obligations investments only a few years back (and never apologised or resigned en masse), surely $15,000 has to be chicken feed. HVC probably spent that much on legal fees when it failed to convince the Tasmanian Planning Commission last year that an application for a loony barge proposal, including double-handling of non-existent cargoes, at Surges Point, was something council had the authority to rule on. I’ve never yet seen how much that long-drawn-out shemozzle cost council. Or what council spent on legal fees fighting a reasonable claim for about $700 from a valley trader.

Under ‘Options’, the report says:

1. Adoption of this report and re-allocate the additional funds required.
2. Not fund the project and rescind the previous motion13.002/16 [the Mackintosh motion].
3. Consider the request as detailed in council resolution 13.002/16 as part of the 2016/2017 budget process. This option would ensure that due process is followed, that no constraints are placed on current year projects, maintains the full amount in the grant co-contribution account to enable council to apply for grant funding and does not involve the re-allocation of funding from the community assets funding budget into a project that is a recurrent programme project.

Whatever else one thinks, it appears that council has little idea about quickly getting data out of its “Financial Management Information System”.

After all its convoluted argument about being unable to do the bidding of the Mackintosh motion in financial year 2015-16, management is recommending to Wednesday night’s meeting that:

a) The report on the review of budget for the 2015/2016 financial year to fund a credit card review project be received and noted.

b) The implementation of council resolution 13.002/16 be delayed and considered by council as part of the 2016/2017 budget development process.

And this will be when the mettle of Eastley and Heron will be tested. Will they be swayed by the possible myth of the huge cost that management tells them that council will have to go to in order to demonstrate to ratepayers and residents of the Huon Valley that their council has nothing to hide (well, not on credit-card use, anyway) and return to the Heart of the Huon fold? Or will they stick to their guns and help Coad, Mackintosh and Smith to vote the motion down, which would mean management would have to get on with the job of producing credit-card details by April?

Mind you, Wednesday evening’s deliberations might end up a total charade, whichever way council votes. Who knows, maybe Stevens and Taylor have recommended to Gutwein that the whole council (management and councillors) should be sacked and an administrator appointed to do a full forensic on every aspect of the organisation. And, who knows, if such a recommendation is in the report, the minister might even have the temerity to do its bidding.

Mayor Coad suggested in last Saturday’s Mercury (February 20) that too much authority rests in the hands of council CEOs. In this case, it looks as if management believes the credit-card job is way beyond the resources of council. It might just be time for councillors to claw back some of the serpentine list of “delegated authorities” they have handed to management and start taking a bit more responsibility themselves.

Or, perhaps, council could simply put a good bookkeeper on the job. With the bank’s help, it shouldn’t take much more than a week. — Bob Hawkins

• Martin Riddle in Comments: The vote on a review of credit card payments at Huon Valley Council’s meeting tonight will be a very public test for councillors. A test that rate-payers will not forget. The outcome of the vote really doesn’t matter to rate-payers – if the review goes ahead, we will know who had something to hide; if the review is voted down or delayed, we will know who has something to hide. In the words of Yes Minister’s Sir Humphrey Appleby, it would be “a very courageous decision” for a Councillor to vote against the review if they have nothing to hide. …

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55 Comments

55 Comments

  1. Linda Poulton

    March 16, 2016 at 1:35 am

    Behind the RTI sits an important and recognised legal principle, which nullifies (usually for the better) anyone’s personal opinions on whether producing information is right/wrong or useful/time wasting.

    Credit card statements (as opposed to a reconciliation/report) would be of negligible cost to produce.

    I take it that if the raw credit card statements alone were called for, then Council might have no objection? I might lob in my RTI to see what might happen. Look forward to the next instalment about what the Council’s response is, anyone?

  2. Ben Lohberger

    March 15, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    Re #53
    You’re talking to yourself there Bob.

    Re #52
    I agree with you about the importance of RTI Linda, but not so much on the ease of producing a report reconciling multiple credit cards over multiple years.

    As I’ve already said, there are no actual allegations of misuse, so it’ll be very surprising if the report turns up anything of value.

    Which I think makes it a complete waste of the council’s time, and our money.

    That’s just my opinion about it Linda, and I do hope you can see I have my own reasons for thinking the way I do.

  3. Bob Hawkins

    March 15, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    #47. Oh Ben, another red herring.

  4. Linda Poulton

    March 15, 2016 at 12:36 am

    Information has been sought by the public about credit card expenditure within the Council.

    Highly apposite here is the Right to Information Act 2009 (Tas), the object of which is to improve democratic government in Tasmania:
    (a) by increasing the accountability of the executive to the people of Tasmania; and
    (b) by increasing the ability of the people of Tasmania to participate in their governance; and
    (c) by acknowledging that information collected by public authorities is collected for and on behalf of the people of Tasmania and is the property of the State.

    The starting point is not whether there are valid allegations that justify the call for disclosure. Rather, the starting point is that information sought by the public should automatically be disclosed unless there are compelling reasons not to disclose.

    The Council’s reluctance to disclose leads to unfortunate inferences being drawn. How easy it would be to dispel all doubt by simply producing the bank statements or related information for the public to see. That information has, after all, been collected for and on behalf of the people of Tasmania, in order to increase the accountability of the executive, to the people of Tasmania.

    And hey, I didn’t need to come up with this myself!!! It’s actually in an Act of Parliament (although it might as well be written on a corn flake packet as far as some people are concerned).

  5. Trish Kyne

    March 14, 2016 at 3:13 am

    There you go again, Ben……my ‘Behaviour??’ Such a male attitude… and why would you ask Bob Hawkins position on my letters?

    If you had read the whole letter my error related to the dates of the sale of the Port Huon Sports Centre and the date Mr Wilson became a Councillor, for which I have entered an apology….and the transaction was actually more acquisition than sale was it not?

    If you waited until this week’s letters I have apologised for my only error. No cowards here. And I have not actually said Cr Wilson had a credit card. I pointed out that an acting mayor would be unlikely to have a card unless they were babysitting a vacated seat. Why was Cr Wilson’s comment printed with the correction? One had nothing to do with the other.
    The more smoke and mirrors reaction from the HVC regarding the credit card review, the more public interest and disbelief ensues. Whether there are discrepancies or not, it is a matter of public expenditure and operational transparency to be accountable for all financial expenditure.
    For example, what is the cost of legal fees for Councillors claiming this expense from council for the BOI? Was it offered to all or only some Councillors? Legitimate questions regarding expenditure of public funds, which I doubt will ever be answered. Interesting no quibbling with covering self interest but unable to find the funds to review the credit cards.
    The financial statements are raised in Cr Wilson’s continued berating of the issue in his Huon Valley News advertisements. In fact, the medical and child care centres that Cr Wilson uses to demonstrate the increased bottom line for council is a diversion. When the council costs are added on to those facilities, they all run at a loss; as does the Huonville swimming pool and the Port Huon Sports centre. So the only financial positives are the rates (that barely cover the council operating costs) and the grants that come from State or Federal funds. It’s all in the financial report.
    For those that read only the advertisements, the truth remains hidden; hence the plethora of letters to the Huon Valley News regarding the advertisements.

    The boots were into Mayor Coad before he was elected – by whoever cut his face from all the billboards – and by the ongoing onslaught since he was elected. He was elected by residents who wanted the changes he stood for. Blocking that change, does not win the detractors any favours. The majority that voted for the mayor has vastly increased since he took office; underlined by the negative and adverse publicity he has experienced at the hands of his ‘colleagues’. Code of conduct breaches, every one. I believe if the council was sent for new elections, the mayor would be returned with an even greater majority, and some of the detractors would be unseated.

    I notice that the boat is MIA from the Franklin jetty. So finally the parameters of the jetty application have met one of the stated conditions. However, there has been a sail boat moored there for several weeks, significantly more than the 3 days approved in the application.

    This has been an absolute classic situation that has demonstrated the attitude of some to rules and regulations, which rate payers have to abide by. It also underscores why rate payers remain sceptical in the lack of transparency.

    Public officials of any kind should hold themselves as examples to the electorate, and remain vigilant and scrupulous in following the rules and regulations governing the rest of us mere mortals.

    By the way, did you notice the announcement from Minister Gutwein regarding a review of the Local Government Act, to be reported to parliament in 2017? And the EOI’s for the independent Code of Conduct panel are now closed and we await the announcement the panel is up and running. Progress is just zooming along.

  6. Ben Lohberger

    March 13, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    Re #47

    Finally Bob you’re getting it.

    There are no allegations, the investigation is a gigantic fishing expedition based on nothing.

    It’s a waste of the council’s time and money, and quite gobsmacking, hypocritical even, that the mayor of all people would support it, given his regular harping about the council’s financial viability.

    But anyway, while we’re talking Bob, do you support Trish Kyne’s behavior? If you don’t want to answer I’ll take your (continued) silence as a yes.

  7. Ben Lohberger

    March 13, 2016 at 9:20 pm

    Text of Trish Kyne’s latest letter to the Huon News, published (would you believe) on the same day and page as the correction above:

    “Dear Editor,

    Re Cr Mike Wilson’s ads about the valley’s “economic drivers” (Its Your Opinion, 2 March), my perception – and possibly of others – is that the companies cited could be seen to have made donations to the councilor’s campaign war chest.

    If that’s the case, I stand by my “conflict of interest” call.

    Also, I believe the Integrity Commission’s definition of “conflict of interest” could apply to an individual councilor promoting select small businesses.

    Re Cr Wilson’s “facts” about who holds credit cards.

    Has Cr Wilson, who has never been popularly elected as anything but councilor, got inside information that “acting mayors, deputy mayors, or councilors” have never held credit cards?

    I have seen and heard media reports that our council, at times, has had as many as 13 credit cards.

    If those reports are anywhere near accurate, who is it that has been using them?

    It would not be unreasonable to think that an acting mayor might be allocated his own credit card, when the acting period is due e.g. to babysitting a vacancy between council elections.

    Cr Wilson’s explanation of monthly credit card account reconciliation and annual reviews by the Auditor General raises some questions:

    * With the information already reconciled, why was the estimated cost to produce 48 statements $11,000 to $15,000?
    * In such circumstances, what difference is there in retrieving the initially requested 4 years statements rather than two? The resistance has been such that the spectre of something lying in murky waters remains in the rate payers minds.
    * Why can’t the statements be requested from the financial institution?
    * Why did the Auditor General have concerns over the credit card policy?

    It is unfortunate that Mayor Peter Coad has been, since he took office, in my opinion, the victim of systematic misdirection, half-truths and constant character assassination.

    But I believe such hostile behavior tends to do more harm to the reputation of those who indulge in it.

    To my way of thinking, such a mantra is not a vote winner.”

    Trish Kyne
    [Huon News, “It’s Your Opinion,” 9 March 2016, p14, emphasis mine]

  8. Ben Lohberger

    March 13, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    Re #46

    Amusing conspiracy theory Trish. I used ‘we’ because I live in the Huon Valley Council area. It’s my local council, and I’m going to end up paying for this unnecessary farce through my rates.

    But never mind the obvious commonsense explanation, you just go right ahead with your 2+2=5 theories.

    I notice another of your special theories has resulted in the Huon News issuing a correction this week, after you made “some errors of fact” while questioning the financial integrity and motives of a Huon Valley councillor, in one of your many letters to the editor.

    In that same vein, I imagine your cryptic comment in #46, about ‘what has been challenged,’ refers to my challenge of a personal comment you made about me on a separate TT thread. For those who didn’t see it, the comment was ad hominem, completely wrong, easily disprovable, and clearly defamatory. Trish says we should always keep a copy of these things, and I certainly took a screenshot of that one before it was deleted, because it seems to be part of an obvious pattern of behaviour…

    “Text of Huon News correction, 9 March 2016, p14:
    Information published in Trish Kyne’s letter in the Huon News 2 March 2016, contained some errors of fact.
    Ms Kyne claimed Cr Mike Wilson “has previously quoted income from council run medical centres, but never mentions the $90,000 loss incurred annually by the Port Huon Sports Centre; a facility he built and later sold to council while sitting as a councillor”.
    Port Huon Sports Centre was sold to the Huon Valley Council in 1993, and Mike Wilson did not become an elected member of the Huon Valley Council until 2001.
    Also, during the time that Mike Wilson stood as acting mayor, he did not hold a credit card from the Huon Valley Council.”

  9. Bob Hawkins

    March 13, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    #45 Ben, I’m not aware that there have been allegations about HVC’s use of credit cards. What I am aware of is that when the Mercury tried to find out details from various councils, it ran into a brick wall with HVC.

    Other councils, I believe, have cooperated. Secrecy and lack of transparency in a public organisation always lead to public suspicions. I am suspicious about of lots of things HVC has or has not done, but no one to my knowledge has alleged misuse of credits cards as one of them. But it is perfectly reasonable for the paying public to know what its servants — council staff and elected representatives — have done, are doing . . .
    If you can cite allegations, Ben, please let me know of them.

  10. Trish Kyne

    March 13, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    #45
    ‘…..”WE” suddenly seem to need this investigation?’

    So Ben, does the use of the plural ‘WE’ mean you are finally admitting you are not on some personal crusade for yourself in all this but are part of a larger picture?

    And the personal stems from your own statements to Linda regarding her name change, on what is a public site.

    One always notices challenges, and one always keeps a copy of what has been written. Even more interesting is what has been challenged.

  11. Ben Lohberger

    March 13, 2016 at 2:23 am

    Linda #44

    just to be clear, I was quite happy to debate the issues on this thread.

    I thought we were having a reasonable discussion, until you went nuclear and pressed the personal button in #37, and then you kept going three days later in #38.

    Did you know I successfully challenged part of your comment in #37 and had it removed, just one day before you came back with more in #38?

    I tried to be diplomatic, but you seemed intent on making things deeply personal, and now you’re the one complaining about being goaded of all things.

    Before you got all personal I asked you a couple of completely reasonable and on-topic questions in #30, which seems like an awfully long time ago now. But you never answered them, for some reason:

    What are the allegations are about credit card use?

    If you can’t detail the allegations, maybe you could explain why we suddenly seem to need this investigation?

  12. Linda Poulton

    March 10, 2016 at 1:57 am

    No response to your goading ever again Ben. Have a good night’s sleep.

    Just rest assured I don’t need $700 from Council, just integrity and accountability. I just saw a pig fly by my window!!!!

    And Trish, you have nailed it. Let’s just have short hand responses to Ben from here in. The content is not serving of anything more.

    BTW Ben, is your style modelled on Alan Jones or Derryn Hinch? Very similar and just as amusing. Thanks for the chortle.

  13. Trish Kyne

    March 7, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    Still dodging Ben. Bob’s response was to you not Linda. So misleading, red herrings, misdirection and no real substance. Just Spin.

  14. Trish Kyne

    March 7, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    Well said Bob.

    The minutia visited on the general public in planning matters is way beyond the legal requirements, e.g. I have friends who were told they would have to plant trees along their boundary (totally excluding the view they anticipated enjoying from their new home, ‘because the neighbours did not want to look at their modern home?’
    I have another friend that was told that in order to ensure that all legal requirements were raised and fulfilled in planning applications, they should employ their own lawyer to oversee the councils decisions for accuracy!

    Despite having sent photographic evidence to the general manager, while pointing out that the conditions in the application for legalising the Franklin jetty were already being breached, there was no indication of that fact at the February council meeting. The breaches include:
    • The continuous presence of a moored boat (one boat for at least two years; two boats in the last several weeks and three on Saturday), when the application clearly states boats will not be moored for more than three days
    • The continued advertising for daily river cruises to be booked at the restaurant, despite the application stating there would not be a business venture picking up and dropping off people at the jetty. That any such venture would require separate application to, and approval by council
    • That the Franklin jetty would be available for public use. Yet a new sign was in existence prior to the council meeting, announcing the ‘Petty Sessions Jetty.’ Definitely not an indication of public friendly facility.

    Back to the article and credit cards. I was at a public gathering yesterday where a story emerged of inappropriate use of petrol credit cards; accusations being laid at one person’s door, only to find that person did not hold a card with the fuel supplier in question. So who was abusing the card use? Is that why the limitation persists in the scrutiny of credit cards?

    (edited)

  15. Ben Lohberger

    March 7, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    #40

    I agree Bob, let’s keep the personal stuff out. If Linda can’t handle the fact that I disagree with her, she shouldn’t resort to questioning my personal motives/morals. That’s about as personal as it gets, don’t you think?

  16. Bob Hawkins

    March 7, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    #39. Yet again, Ben, you are dodging the issue. It’s not that a claim was made. It was that council seems to be forever splurging money on lawyers to cover up what I see as its own inadequacies — a practice that seems to have got worse in recent years. I have no idea how much public cash was wasted on the Surges Point fiasco, in my view, so badly managed by HVC, possibly at the urging of council’s majority of cargo-cultists. I wouldn’t be surprised if another bucket-load was spent on that retrospectively legalised illegal, unapproved jetty near Petty Sessions restaurant, Franklin. It wouldn’t be because council is run by a couple of executives with law degrees, would it? Wow, when I re-read what I’ve just written, I realise I’m beginning to sound like you. So why don’t we keep the personal stuff out of it and get down to the nitty-gritty: we’ve got a pathetic council that hides behind a veil of secrecy — and it needs a damned good shake-up.

  17. Ben Lohberger

    March 7, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Re #38

    What an absurd suggestion Linda. Of course I’m not being paid to comment.

    Money has nothing to do with this. For me that is.

    Bob mentions a “valley trader” in his article above. A trader who Bob says made a claim for $700 against the Huon Valley Council.

    Is that trader you, Linda?

    If it is, who’s motivated by money here, and who isn’t?

    I know I’m not.

  18. Linda Poulton

    March 7, 2016 at 1:21 am

    Hi Ben,

    I know you’re extremely busy, but any chance of herring (sic) from you about whether you are being remunerated for commenting on TasTimes? It’s good to know when we are being spun.

  19. Linda Whelan

    March 3, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Oh, Ben, the endless diversions you create just to see whether people will follow, and usually, against our better judgment, we do, including where you make personal and disparaging comments about someone’s overuse of commas, deliberately overused by me now, and also, by the way, used wherever I like to put them – to warning others about the dangers of imbibing too much alcohol! (Be warned, I also like to overuse exclamation marks), and I enjoy alcohol too, sometimes at my own peril!!!!!!
    Even though well intended and appreciated, your comment on marriage equality is yet another diversion.
    Please let us all remember that the original article was about HVC accountability and the focus should be on that, not on responding to endless diversions employed as a journalistic tactic to take the attention off the important issues made in Bob’s article.
    I note Ben that you have chosen not to reveal the sources of your information. It wasn’t a nice try on my behalf, it was a question asked in vain and I knew it. Your response was unfortunately predictable. My question was simply an attempt to avail you of an opportunity to lend some credibility to your assertions. Alas!
    (Comment challenged and deleted).
    My suggestion to fellow contributors is that we not get caught up in these little diversions of Ben’s, even where they are aimed at you personally. To do so only detracts from Bob’s articles. I will try to take my own advice (but, God help me, that might provide too hard!!!!!!!!!)

  20. Trish Kyne

    March 3, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    So Ben, instead of verifying facts for yourself you are reliant on ‘unnamed sources’ for your point of view? Really a Mushroom attitude, don’t you think?

  21. Ben Lohberger

    March 2, 2016 at 11:56 pm

    Re #31 hi Linda

    Thanks for your response, and good luck in getting married. Everyone should have the right to marry another adult of their choice, regardless of sexuality or gender, and I’ll certainly be celebrating when that moment finally arrives for you two, and many others.

    I actually wrote and then deleted a joke from my previous post, about the comma-per-inch rate in that quote. In hindsight I probably should have included it.

    Thanks for the advice 🙂

    Re #32

    Sorry Shane, I wasn’t aware you’d already shown the events on the Cartela didn’t breach regulations. If you could point out where you said that I would be appreciative.

    Or we could all just drop it if you prefer. I was making a point, and it’s made now. To be honest, I’m quite happy to see events being held that raise money for the community (who wouldn’t be?).

    But just be careful about holding events involving alcohol onboard moored vessels. When I was a lad a young girl seriously injured herself in a very private place, after falling down an exhaust shaft during a party held onboard an old ferry moored in Hobart. These things can and do happen, and alcohol makes them that much more likely.

    Re #34

    Nice try Linda. But I’m won’t reveal sources unless they explicitly give their permission, and that’s not the case here unfortunately.

  22. Linda Poulton

    February 26, 2016 at 11:57 pm

    And Ben @ 2, just to get back on track, the source of your information about the supposed aspirations of Peter Coad to be Mayor would be….?

  23. Trish Kyne

    February 26, 2016 at 1:43 am

    At the recent council meeting it was revealed that the credit card question was actually raised by the auditor general because some people were authorising their own expenditure.

    The auditor general advised the mayor to follow this up. His efforts to do so have obviously landed the HVC where they are now. Except – with 80 submissions to the BOI, they may find complying to the mayor’s request in the first place would have saved a lot of angst for everyone involved. The absolute resistance to a legal request only enhances the suspicion in the public’s mind that the great lengths taken have been to cover something up. In addition, who knows what will be revealed from the submissions.

    The scrutiny into council affairs has not stemmed from one person’s reporting. It stems from the gallery observing the way business is conducted at council meetings.

  24. Shane Johnson

    February 26, 2016 at 12:34 am

    Ben @ #30, I have provided details of the events that you criticise and falsely accuse of breaching regulations. One was an afternoon tea and the other was a folk concert. Both were very sober affairs and neither could be described as a party.

    Further, I reject utterly your comparison with the actions of a Councillor that you try to defend.

    These were community events that achieved community benefit and neither were in breach of the regulations.

  25. Linda Poulton

    February 26, 2016 at 12:25 am

    Hi Ben, #30. Thought I should clarify the confusion regarding my name. I am not trying to hide behind a pseudonym. I wrote those comments from different computers, one of which still had my old name as the account holder (Whelan) and one of which has my current name (Linda Poulton).

    My surname has been changed to match that of my partner (since we can’t get legally married yet). Apologies for any confusion you might have experienced. One thing that you can be sure of, is that I am not Linda Peters!

    On the “murdering” of my so called passive-aggressive warning, I obviously do not share your eloquent turn of phrase. Sorry to have grated.

    And lastly, apologies if you took my advice as a warning. It was sincerely just intended as advice. I honestly think:

    1.Your comments ask the reader to draw the inference that whoever is responsible for holding these events on the Cartela has unlawfully discharged effluent into the Huon River.
    2.The identity of the person who organized the events is ascertainable from the facts.
    3.Your comments would disparage the person about whom you ask readers to make the inference.

    Clearly, I am not the one being defamed. Nor do I know who owns or moors the Cartela at Franklin. It follows that I was not making any threats on behalf of anyone. Just observations.

  26. Ben Lohberger

    February 25, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    Re #28

    Linda Whelan/Poulton (huh?) I won’t be taking advice on where or what I write from anyone who murders a passive-aggressive warning like this:

    “I would be careful here, not to fall foul of defamation laws, if I were you.”

    I try my best to provide more information than what’s being provided by Bob, because I believe he regularly omits facts unfavourable to his arguments. Ridiculing Studley’s questions about voting patterns without providing the quite telling answers is a good example. Bob’s brief mention in his article (above) of Peter Coad’s recent comments, without providing any of the actual comments, is another.

    With regards to the credit card matter, I have already explained that I think it’s a gigantic fishing expedition. If you want to discuss it, that’s fine.

    To start with, maybe you could explain what the allegations are about credit card use, and if you can’t detail the allegations, maybe you could explain why we suddenly seem to need this investigation? Because at this stage, after a motion in council, an article from Bob, and all these comments, I’ve still got no idea why the investigation is even required.

    As for the Cartela, that issue was actually raised on this thread by Shane Johnson, not me.

    Bob and his supporters can pick out one single business for public and regulatory scrutiny if that’s what they want to do. But look what happens when a couple of questions are asked about an activity they support. Suddenly it’s all irrelevant, or “oohh ahh, a party,” nevermind the regulations or safety requirements.

    As Shane so eloquently illustrates in #29, there are lots of businesses and activities in the Huon that wouldn’t stand up to the kind of inch-by-inch regulatory scrutiny that Mr Hawkins and his supporters seem to favour.

  27. Shane Johnson

    February 25, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    Ben @ #28, this has gone beyond your diversions and your determination to diminish the Mayor of the Huon Valley Council.

    Whether you are interested in the credit card issue or not or why you are motivated to attack the Mayor are meaningless questions.

    The only issue now is the timing and nature of Peter Gutwein’s intervention into the governance practices of this Council.

    The obvious conflicts of interest raised in the decision to reduce and defer scrutiny into this matter means it is now so murky that an entirely independent audit should occur. Perhaps this could be one of the first tasks for the Administrator who should now be promptly appointed.

    On the subject of sewage from Cartela, you might like to know that a nearby building has for years had a problem of raw sewage outflow into the river. This has only been fixed in the past few months. You might like to check on whether any councillors were aware of this problem.

    I would be happy to show you. It could be another stop on our investigative tour through Franklin.

  28. Linda Whelan

    February 25, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    Ben,
    Thanks for confirming that no one within the Council disclosed any information of that type to you. Somewhat understandably, I assumed that you may have been informed of it during your time as an employee of Council.
    If this was in fact something disclosed to you outside that context, then there has been no breach of privacy by any Council employee in relation to their revelation any such information to you. It follows that there is no need to protect that person’s identity and transparency would be well served by your revelation of your source. It would also add some credibility to your assertions. Otherwise, it’s just hearsay (not the best form of evidence) and lacking credibility.
    It also appears that as soon as one of your allegations of illegal activity on the Cartela might be debunked (oohh ahh, a party!), you make the suggestion that there was another potentially illegal activity. Again, you are close to asking people to draw an inference without providing supporting evidence which would prove its veracity. I would be careful here, not to fall foul of defamation laws, if I were you.
    I imagine you have a never ending list of unsupported suggestive comments that direct people down various rabbit holes to distract them from the real issue, viz the travesty of a Council that has an allergy to disclosing information.
    You have tried to shift the focus on to statements made by Mayor Coad about the role of Manager versus Aldermen. I am not sure how many times I have mentioned it (and I shouldn’t need to again), but Bob’s article was about how Council planned to deal with the issue of disclosure of credit card expenditure. Comments in response to the “the article” should focus on this issue. If all you have to say is that you see no merit in it that’s fine and surely that’s the end of your comment. On the other hand, you could write your own article on evil Mayor Coad and others could then be inclined to comment on that.

  29. Trish Kyne

    February 25, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    As I said before Ben, the call for a review of the LGA is widespread. You seem to be determined to lay all woes at the mayor’s door. You accuse Bob Hawkins of being a car carrying Coad supporter. Who are you card carrying for?

    I did not mislead Treeger – the HVC released the GM’s salary level to the Mercury, and promised the credit card information. Then the BOI and GAG motion stopped that. So the back flip was related to the release of only the wages information: AND, if the credit card information had previously been collated and released we wouldn’t be where we are now. Also, if the credit card information had been collated it would have been sitting there ready to be released.

    Raw figures without substance are meaningless, Ben and touting them as a fact to prove the HotH team don’t bloc vote on the serious issues is fantasy. The real test is to pull out the 51 votes where they hi-jacked common sense and transparency, itemise them and discuss the content and ramifications for the rate payers.

    The Councillor that ‘revealed’ the mayor won’t talk to him is as usual light on truth and large on grandstanding. At a council meeting the same person made the same statement, and the response from the mayor was – do you really want to do this here? Smug councillor yelled ‘yes’ back. The mayor’s response was – ‘because you threatened me’. Silence. The mayor moved the meeting on and another councillor actually confirmed that threat, by saying they were there, and it was only a bit of fun? … And that’s the point. Group meetings and discussions, in this environment in particular, is important. Witnesses to events and comments are important. One on one meetings, particularly in this environment, give unscrupulous people the opportunity to make indefensible claims against the other. Which is why the audio recording of council meetings is so important.

    If you believe bloc voting is a silly argument, you are not identifying or admitting the ramifications of such a situation. Self interest being the main one. What’s in it for the bloc? …

    This is not a school yard. It is a public funded entity and must be scrupulous in the way it is run, and that means full transparency. It also means that vilifying intelligent articulate people because of their political beliefs – which is, by the way, illegal under the discrimination act – is a major cause for concern. Cr Studley’s rant at the recent council meeting at Cr Mackintosh is such an example; when for lack of any substantial reasoned argument he loudly claimed the credit card motion was some kind of Greens’ plot; and when directed to desist yelled out – well, he is a Green? What has that got to do with the motion?

    It has been said to me that the only problem in the Valley is the new educated people who follow what’s going on and act on their discoveries. What a pompous attitude, as well as being a sneering and smug indictment on the literacy level of their fellow residents.

    (edited)

  30. Ben Lohberger

    February 25, 2016 at 2:35 am

    Re #12
    Thanks Bob for your considered response.

    I also support moves for more transparency, especially the recording of council meetings. I only wish it had been in operation during Mr Coad’s first council meeting as Mayor. If it was, there’d be no debate about whether he misled that meeting regarding his campaign claim that the council was going broke, when it wasn’t.

    Re #13
    Linda. I’d already answered your question before you posted it. I’m not interested in the credit card investigation because I have no idea why it’s needed in the first place.

    But I am interested in something that hadn’t been reported on TasmanianTimes.com, which was Mayor Coad’s call this week for councilors to be given the power to pull rank over council managers, among other things.

    It was actually briefly mentioned in the article above you know. Maybe you should read my comment at #9. And the article, right to the end.

    As for your suggestion that I have inside information, the information did not come from anyone who had anything to do with the selection of Simone Watson as GM.

    Before we begin interrogations, maybe someone should tell the Mayor’s extended family that his application for GM was a big secret, not to be revealed under any circumstances.

    It’s disappointing that you gloss over the real issue, which is Peter Coad’s repeated claims that he doesn’t know where the boundary lies between the responsibilities of the GM and the Mayor, despite apparently applying for both jobs.

    Re #14
    I actually agree with the first half of your comment Shane, although I question who should pay for the credit card investigation when there don’t seem to be any specific allegations.

    Maybe the Councilors who voted for it should pay if it finds nothing, and those who voted against should pay if anyone is caught stealing?

    Re #15 (and #6 Treeger)
    You’re misleading Treeger there Trish.

    Huon Valley Council released that information three weeks after the article Treeger referenced:
    http://www.themercury.com.au/news/politics/huon-valley-council-agrees-to-release-gm-pay-details-in-backflip/news-story/1133d9f283b0b7ae9c43b5c682f4cfe0

    Your comment that “elected officials have a duty to work with the people alongside them” is quite valid though. I notice a Huon Valley councilor revealed this week that Mayor Peter Coad won’t talk to him or some of the other councilors unless they’re at a public event together, or sitting in council.

    And I don’t think I’ve “misconstrued” the way the council votes. Despite your claims, during 321 council votes the so-called HotH team voted together just once, while the entire council voted together 270 times.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with people voting together anyway. It’s a silly argument in my opinion, which I only brought up because both you and Bob ridiculed Studley’s questions without supplying any of the quite revealing answers.

    Re #16 & 17
    I’ve been busy Linda. Hope that’s okay with you.

    Let us know about your investigation. I’ll be interested to see how it goes.

    You could also investigate the disposal of effluent collected during those parties. Here’s hoping it wasn’t just pumped straight into the Huon River off Franklin.

  31. Treeger

    February 24, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    #24 You have to remember who the readership of the Huon News is, local Huon folk and a good proportion of the voting population for HVC. It is therefore the logical organ for any electioneering of a target audience. As a publication it does have limited internet coverage, see http://www.huonnews.com. So to read it, one really has to be in the Huon Valley (although it can be purchased in selected Hobart news agencies). It would be a safe bet that most of HVC voters read The Huon News and not Tas Times.

    I understand HVC voted for a self imposed media gag while the Board of Inquiry was being conducted. This was definitely breached a few times through articles and interviews published in both the Huon News and The Mercury.

  32. Trish Kyne

    February 24, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    Has everyone seen Cr Wilson’s article in the Mercury on the 24th Feb? Such grandstanding shows he believes a simple election will sort everything out. He is definitely in election mode. He has never managed to win the position of mayor yet – if he believes the past year’s shenanigans will help him succeed I believe he has no understanding of the public’s perception.

    His ad in yesterday’s Huon News is even more revealing.

  33. Martin Riddle

    February 24, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    Who would have thought that the vote on the review of credit card use by the mayor, deputy-mayor and general manager at the Huon Valley Council’s meeting last night could have been so revealing? It was clear that for once rate-payers would be the winners whatever the outcome of the vote. If the review went ahead we would know who has something to hide; if the review was voted down, delayed or significantly amended we would know from the voting patterns who was trying to hide something. However, the extent of self-interest displayed at the meeting was astonishing.

    In the end an amendment proposed by Councillor Mike Wilson won the day. The amendment limited the extent of the review to credit card payments since the council elections of 2014. Procedures established to avoid conflict of interest should have prevented Councillor Wilson from proposing an amendment specifically designed to exclude from scrutiny his term as deputy mayor which ended at those elections in 2014. I can think of few better examples to illustrate the concept of conflict of interest than proposing a motion to prevent scrutiny of one’s own actions – a surprising move when so much public attention is being directed towards governance within Huon Valley Council.

    Councillor Wilson may having nothing to hide but his actions at the council meeting give rate-payers no confidence of that and must give Local Government Minister, Peter Gutwein, further food for thought as he considers the report of the Board of Inquiry on Huon Valley Council’s affairs.
    .

  34. Trish Kyne

    February 24, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Not only was it disgraceful, how did a motion to council get presented through the GM’s financial report?
    Cr Wilson’s motion then made a peace offering of a 2 year review, at a significant lower cost to council according to the GM – which just underscored the inflation attached to the initial quote.

    If you check the dates you will find that the commencement for Cr Wilson’s offering starts after he ceased being acting mayor. Such a charade. So, what if we skip the last 2 years, and look at the 2 before that?

    Cr Studley revealed his true colours by inferring Cr Mackintosh had brought the initial motion as some part of a Greens plot? The last resort of the HotH team when considering an intelligent offering is to vote it down as a Greens plot.

    The illegal jetty was also passed, despite the fact that some of the applicant’s conditions have already been broken. Despite the fact that I sent photograph’s demonstrating the broken conditions to the GM on the day prior to the council meeting.

    Is there not a duty of disclosure?

    Cr Wilson left the room during the discussion, openly acknowledging his interest for the first time. If the conditions regarding usage of the jetty by a private concern are kept Cr Wilson will now have to apply to council for his boat venture.

  35. Rod Macfarlan

    February 24, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    The budget for the credit card examination was absolutely disgraceful. … Hopefully Peter Gutwein will consider this in making his decisions.

  36. Martin Riddle

    February 23, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    The vote on a review of credit card payments at Huon Valley Council’s meeting tonight will be a very public test for councillors. A test that rate-payers will not forget.

    The outcome of the vote really doesn’t matter to rate-payers – if the review goes ahead, we will know who had something to hide; if the review is voted down or delayed, we will know who has something to hide. In the words of Yes Minister’s Sir Humphrey Appleby, it would be “a very courageous decision” for a Councillor to vote against the review if they have nothing to hide.

    Councillors cannot hide behind the inflated estimates of the cost of the review. They all know that the cost is quite irrelevant – even if credible, $15,000 is a very small price to pay when the integrity of councillors and senior executive officers of this multi-million dollar publicly-owned body is so in question.

    I am looking forward to the vote – I don’t mind which way the vote falls, but I will remember how each councillor votes.

  37. pat synge

    February 23, 2016 at 11:37 am

    So the GM claims it would cost between $11K and $15K to check on a few credit card statements for 4 years. And then goes on to claim that HVC cannot afford this expense.

    One could be forgiven for feeling that this sounds like obstructionism. The next question is bound to be “Why?”.

    Hopefully the outcome of the BOI will be that Council is put into administration with a new executive for at least 2 years. It probably take that long to find and clean out all the things that have been swept under the carpet over the last decade of apparent mismanagement.

  38. Geoff Capper

    February 23, 2016 at 11:25 am

    Most of the major banks offer an “export” function from their online banking system, which will conveniently output all records from an account into a form that can be swiftly analysed. Some of them even export into accounting software formats, would you believe?!

    If the bank doesn’t offer this function then surely the hint of a suggestion that council change credit card facilities to an organisation that does would be enough to inspire the bank to provide the necessary files?

    With any thought of manually entering the data out of the way, initial analysis and categorisation of expenses would take no more than a couple of hours.

    Thanks to the fairly comprehensive information in most statements the initial analysis will reveal any items that should be investigated further, and all that would be needed is a filing clerk that can match up a date on a statement line item to a record in the claims filing system.

  39. Linda Poulton

    February 23, 2016 at 12:28 am

    And if there is an issue about the legality of holding a local fund raising activity/private party on a vessel with a legal permit to moor, then I can explore it. In the meantime, let’s just note that such a scenario is far removed from that in which a person on Council benefits financially from the unapproved construction of a private jetty, on the (somewhat predictable) assumption that it will be retrospectively approved by Council.

  40. Linda Poulton

    February 23, 2016 at 12:16 am

    Ben, no response to my question yet. Can you reveal the source of your seemingly informed question? If not, I wonder at the integrity of posing of the question in the first place.

  41. Trish Kyne

    February 22, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    #6 Treeger – the information request you refer to was not given to the Mercury. The BOI was announced and the council retreated behind Studley’s gag motion.

    #3 Ben – The issue of the Mayor versus the GM in the Local Government Act and their areas of responsibility has been raised in numerous articles in the Mercury by several other councils and a minister, as well as an academic. So your sole blame on Mayor Coad is misplaced.

    The HotH team fielded 9 candidates, and intended to have free reign to do whatever they wanted. Not getting their own way reduced them to hijacking all good sense – because they could. So they pressurized the mayor in the hopes he would quit.

    At the LGA state meeting one of the councils presented a motion that allowed the elected Councillors to select their own mayor from their own ranks. When presented at the LGA state meeting, the suggestion didn’t even rate a seconder. It was suggested in an interview on the local radio that if they selected their own mayor then they would be able to work with that person?
    Elected officials have a duty to work with the people alongside them.

    You have also totally misconstrued the point with the HotH voting pattern. The context is that the HotH voting pattern means they, as a team, hijack the council every time the issue being voted on means the result will bring ‘outsiders’ into review the council practices or transparency to the rate payers. It is Naive to suggest that 3 people voting the same way in a 9 vote council gives them the upper hand!It is the success of the motions that count – not the hum drum group acceptance of minutes and already agreed points of view. The HotH voting pattern is against public opinion (ratepayers)and continues to maintain a ‘closed shop’ when it comes to operational issues. The credit card issue is a prime example. Other councils have released their information. What’s so special about the HVC? Their unwilling stance to shine light on proceedings always raises the question – what have they got to hide? The vast amount of money quoted to do what should be a simple task is another smoke screen.

    A particular Councillor in the HotH team actually goaded the mayor to ‘take the lead’ after a vote that stopped procedures and swung them their way.Such childish behaviour is exhibited on many occasions.
    Cr Smith first put the motion regarding the taping of council meetings. Voted down. Came back through another Councillor and has been adopted subject to the policy being approved. Such shenanigans wastes time and money – public money.

    Finally Ben, I often wonder what your links are to the HVC as your staunch support ignores the obvious problems.

  42. Shane Johnson

    February 22, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Ben, re your comment at #9, it appears that your only complaint is that this is a fishing expedition although you do concede that ‘it might find something’.

    Scrutiny of credit card expenses by a public official must be rigorous. When that isn’t the case, for example when systems are poor then back-checking should be undertaken.

    If there is nothing to be found then nothing will be found.

    I fully support Mayor Coad’s call for a re-balance of the powers of the General Manager and the elected officials. The GM and management should not be able to refuse requests for information from the Mayor and Councillors. It is not right that Councillors have been forced to pay a fee and go through the Right to Information process to find out things for the community.

    I am sure that most members of the community are unaware that their elected officials are so powerless and would agree that this imbalance needs to change.

    I hope that this change is one of the recommendations from the Board of Enquiry.

    Regarding your comment at #10, it is my understanding that Cartela does have a valid permit to be berthed at Government Wharf in Franklin. If your sources can provide you with different information then I suggest that you take it up with the appropriate authorities.

    On the matter of events held on Cartela, I have been involved in two.

    One was a fashion parade and afternoon tea and the attendees were given a glass of sparkling on arrival. All proceeds went to funding another community event. This may indeed be a breach of the rules but I will leave it to you to judge.

    The other was an afternoon folk concert and no alcohol was served.

    My offer to take you for a walk through Franklin stands. We can start at the spot where Council buried its asbestos.

  43. Linda Poulton

    February 22, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Ben, you keep positing that Peter Coad applied for the job of General Manager. Even if what you say is true, I can’t see the relevance of this to Bob’s article. You see, the Mayor’s credit card details are also subject to the Council resolution. How is it vindictive to support an investigation of one’s own credit card transactions?

    I suggest you desist your positing about whether Peter Coad applied for the position of General Manager, I certainly do not know the answer to this and nor (I suggest) do most other readers.

    By way of contrast, you appear to have inside information. So a more important question is this one. Has anyone within Council suggested this to you and if so who?

    If what you say is true, there has potentially been a breach of the Personal Information Protection Act, which is yet another serious misstep by someone within Council. It’s just unfortunate that this could not have been passed onto the Board before the enquiry concluded. Can you reveal the source of your supposition in light of this potential breach?

  44. Bob Hawkins

    February 22, 2016 at 10:27 am

    Hi Ben: Yes, I am a declared supporter of Mayor Coad, just as you are obviously a supporter of GM Simone Watson. We are both exercising one of the few political freedoms our so-called democracy allows us. I was unaware of Coad’s existence until he began to campaign for a return to council. That was when I realised that there was at last hope that the tragic mess that I believe Huon Valley Council had become during the long years of now-MLC Robert Armstrong as mayor could start to be sorted out. Coad has worked respectfully and diligently to do something about that mess. The appointment by LG Minister Gutwein of a board of inquiry into HVC affairs last September raised my hopes that at last something might be happening that would bring an end to local government mediocrity in the valley. The BoI report is now in, but I’m not holding my breath that the outcome will save the valley from a continuation of that mediocrity. When it comes to honest and open democracy, at both levels of government — state and local — Tasmania has a sad record that goes right back to the first days of the invasion of the island. My view is that the situation is insoluble. But that doesn’t mean any of us should stop trying to ameliorate the mess. In the meantime, may you continue to float your red herrings, and I’ll continue to float what you probably see as mine.

  45. Ben Lohberger

    February 22, 2016 at 3:25 am

    Re #5 Trish refers to Councillor Ken Studley’s motion looking into voting patterns on the Huon Valley Council, but like Bob Hawkins she doesn’t reveal the answers to Studley’s questions, or give any context.

    The context of the motion is obviously the Mayor’s repeated allegations that other councillors are obstructing him by ‘bloc voting’ on the Huon Valley Council. Allegations supported by Bob Hawkins.

    But Cr Studley’s motion revealed the most common bloc vote on the HVC since the formation of this Council was all of the councillors together, voting unanimously in 270 out of 321 votes.

    And the 2nd most common voting bloc?

    Mayor Coad and two other councillors, voting together eight times in the remaining 51 votes.

    The ‘heart of the Huon’ candidates that Mayor Coad and Bob Hawkins are always going on about?

    They voted exclusively together just once during the 321 council votes. Once.

    Bob Hawkins actually wrote about Cr Studley’s motion a few weeks ago but strangely, just like Trish, he also failed to disclose the answers, or the context. Instead, what he said was this:

    “The answers to a lot of Studley’s questions can be found in public council documents. And that silly second series of questions, about councillors’ voting patterns! All he has to do is to look back through council minutes.”

    Never forget that Bob Hawkins is a self-confessed spear-carrier for Peter Coad. God knows how long it’s been going on for (see comment #2).

    Bob’s article mentioning Studley’s motion is here: http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/article/gutwein-huon-probe-report-due-friday/

  46. Ben Lohberger

    February 22, 2016 at 2:24 am

    Re #3 I’d also appreciate it Shane if you didn’t verbal me.

    You say I tried to suggest the Cartela might not have a permit for its berth, and you go on to describe that as another “red herring”.

    But what I actually did was follow Bob Hawkins’ lead in questioning the legality of everything on the Franklin waterfront, including the Cartela:

    “How legal are all the other jetties in Franklin? How legal is the parking of the Cartela on the Franklin foreshore, and its use for parties involving alcohol consumption?”

    Even Bob Hawkins agreed with me at the time: “Hi Ben: I am with you on this one. There is now great uncertainty about the legality of jetties all over the Huon (maybe Tasmania)…”

    I completely reject your claim that that comment was in any way a red herring.

    The link is here, note the title (my comment is #5): “That illegal Franklin jetty: a question begged?,” http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/article/that-illegal-franklin-jetty-a-question-begged/

    Finally Shane, just so we’re all clear here, you’re a longtime Franklin resident yourself aren’t you?

    Are you involved with any of the groups that held or benefitted from parties involving alcohol onboard the Cartela?

    You seem fairly confident about the legality of the Cartela’s berth, so are you also able to clear up the part of my question that you excluded and failed to address?

    Just how legal were those parties involving alcohol onboard the Cartela?

  47. Ben Lohberger

    February 22, 2016 at 2:02 am

    Re #3

    Without any specific allegations, this credit card investigation looks like a massive fishing expedition. It’s an ambulance in search of a casualty. Nothing more than a sideshow.

    Who knows, the investigation into nothing may actually find something, but without anything specific to go on it’s hard to see why we need to have it in the first place.

    The real issue for Huon Valley politics in this past week is the media call from Mayor Peter Coad a few days back.

    Strangely, he doesn’t seem to have posted his comments onto TasmanianTimes.com the way he used to when he was standing for Mayor, and Bob Hawkins hasn’t written an article about it either, which says a lot.

    But Bob does refer to it above…briefly:

    “Mayor Coad suggested in last Saturday’s Mercury (February 20) that too much authority rests in the hands of council CEOs.”

    I have that Saturday Mercury article here, and Mayor Coad’s comments go a fair bit further than what Bob says:

    “Cr Coad said councillors’ capacity to pull rank over General Managers needed to be confirmed in the [Local Govt] Act.”

    “If a Council has no confidence in its own abilities it delegates roles to the General Manager. Delegation gives complete control to the General Manager and that should be limited, Cr Coad said. It makes the role of the councillor a complete waste of time.”

    “Cr Coad said it would be impossible for the Huon Valley Council, with a population of about 15,000, to survive financially in the coming decade.”

    Peter Coad has repeatedly questioned the line of responsibility between GM and Mayor, and is now calling for councillors, especially himself I imagine, to be given the power to “pull rank” over a council GM.

    So did he apply for the role of General Manager of the HVC, or not?

    This is not a “red herring”, it’s a legitimate question.

  48. Linda Poulton

    February 22, 2016 at 1:32 am

    Interesting comment Ben! Pity it has nothing to do with the article.

    If what you say is true, it’s also quite disconcerting that you are in receipt of such information, unless you were on the selection committee. Even so, I would have thought it proper that the personal information of individuals applying for a job should have been collected and used only for the purpose for which the information was provided, and not distributed for public consumption? Does the Personal Information Protection Act have any application here?

    Also, your comments are really very ironic. You respond to an article that supports greater transparency in local government by making an irrelevant comment in which you reveal information of a personal nature that should have been protected from release, in circumstances where the mind boggles as to how you have come into the information. Keep the good times coming!

  49. Geoffrey Swan

    February 22, 2016 at 12:46 am

    I am reminded that I have got my numbers wrong… I am reliably informed that Mayor Coad has not spent “one cent” on his HVC “credit card”.. therefore that should reduce the estimated $15,000 or $11,000 down by 25% with one less card to examine.

    And another thought… simply ask the bank(s) for back copies of all the HVC credit card statements.. even at today’s exorbitant bank fees, it is a heck of a lot less expensive than the $37.50 per hour rate ($78,000 per annum plus) used in the HVC calculations.

    And then there is the $75 per hour supervisor and reporting rate ($156,000 per annum plus…).

    Not that long ago when I was a General Manager in the corporate world, all my staff expense claims included a claim form explaining the expense, and a copy of their credit card statement along with all the actual business receipts. These were simply stapled as one “document bundle ” each and every month, then filed under staff expense claims. The claimant kept their own photocopy so there was always a backup in the system.

    Simply pluck a folder from the file drawer, or the cardboard archive box, and there they are..certainly not rocket science, and not something requiring 30 of hours training as suggested by the HVC for the Project Officer.

  50. Treeger

    February 21, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/huon-valley-refuses-pay-info-saying-general-managers-contract-subject-to-closed-consideration/news-story/7a661022601a4ea4a72261a9082838c3?sv=a1fda579c34f3c65fc11c361a1ab9dd0

    excerpt from the article:
    “The Mercury has also ­requested copies of the general manager’s claimed expenses for the past three years, however council has asked for an extension until October 21 (2015) in order for it to locate the ­information.”

    Was this info provided to the Mercury – can anyone remember?

  51. Trish Kyne

    February 21, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    I agree with Shane (#3)

    In addition, the money to fund the legal fees for the Councillors to respond to whatever they are facing with the BOI was not a planned item in the budget, but seemingly readily accommodated.

    The farcical motion put by Cr Studley in relation to the HotH teams voting patterns was also readily accommodated by the GM and council staff. The Hoth team then proceeded to demonstrate what the issue actually is; and that is voting against anything that will shine a light on council activities,or bring outside experience and knowledge to the table. The louder the protests to conceal information the more determined the rate payers will be. The only motion that has upset the HotH teams apple cart was passing the credit card motion. As Bob says, it remains until Wed. night to see if Cr Eastley and Cr Heron stand firm.

    The cost the GM has estimated appears to be a ridiculous amount of money, unless the council financial system is in such disarray they don’t know where anything is. So, it’s either a governance issue or one of transparency. In either case I am sure there would be willing hands in the community to volunteer their services and save face for the council.

  52. Geoffrey Swan

    February 21, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    I too have just downloaded the Agenda for this Wednesday’s HVC meeting..

    https://drive.google.comfolderview?id=0Bzz9Wd9smbkqNEIyZTQ0YlI4N1k&usp=drive_web

    and read the cost analysis to undertake an audit of 4 years worth of credit card statements – am I missing something here – that is 48 statements for the GM, Acting GM, Mayor and Acting Mayor…192 credit card statements in total.

    The cost analysis of up to $15,000 of our hard earned ratepayers’ money to undertake the forensics is an absolutely outrageous position.

    Surely this is a convoluted attempt to avoid the whole exercise.(option 2 .. rescind the motion)

    Please Simone, deputise 10 willing volunteer ratepayers (I’m one, my wife is two…) , have them sign confidentiality agreements, supply some tea, coffee and some chocky biscuits; and I reckon sitting together around the boardroom table we will have this well and truly completed within the week…

    And in the following week we could then have a look at the missing $4 million dollars… (I think I recall Mr Armstrong telling us it is not lost… just misplaced)

  53. Shane Johnson

    February 21, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    Ben Lohberger at #2 again throws in a red herring. Is he suggesting that Mayor Coad is acting vindictively or is he merely trying to diminish the author and to divert our attention from the substance of the article?

    Ben has form here as in a previous article on the pontoon at Franklin that was built without a permit, he tried to suggest that the Cartela might also not have a permit for its berth.

    I haven’t done the course in spin-doctoring but diversion would appear to be the tactic of first resort.

    As for the actual issue, as a Huon Valley ratepayer, I am more than happy for the checks on the credit card expenditures to be made. It will not cost any where near the $15000 suggested.

  54. Ben Lohberger

    February 21, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Is it true that Peter Coad himself applied to be GM of the Huon Valley Council a few years ago, in the process that ultimately selected Simone Watson?

    If so, you would think he knew exactly where the lines of responsibility stand between the roles of Mayor and GM, wouldn’t you.

    If it is true, this statement from Bob Hawkins also takes on new meaning:

    “From more than 40 applicants (from within Tasmania, around Australia, and possibly beyond) — surprise, surprise — valley blow-in lawyer Simone Watson, with only a handful of local government-experience years behind her (all at HVC), was confirmed as GM.

    What must have been vast LG experience offered by at least several other candidates seemingly had no impact on a majority of the four-member selection panel.”

    [Bob Hawkins, “It’s time for change,” 13 Oct 2014, http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php/article/its-time-for-change- ]

  55. Peter Dufferin

    February 21, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    $15000???? To produce four years’ records for around half a dozen credit cards??? Sometimes the squirming obfuscations of those under scrutiny just stretch the imagination beyond belief! You’ve got it Bob – what is the objection if there’s nothing to hide?

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