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

Huon Valley Guessing Games: A council with no shame

ON a field of battle, and with all’s-fair-in-war the rules, such a struggle would go down in the annals as a memorable rearguard action that defiantly resisted the inevitable: defeat. Glory words — implacable, defiant, legend, freedom, true grit, justice — would flow, and the heroes would be well sung.

In the battleground that was Huonville Council Chambers last Monday evening (July 4), there was no actual blood-letting — but it was the scene of a dogged rearguard action by council’s controlling Heart of the Huon (HotH) group.

In light of the findings of a minister-appointed board of inquiry that spent many months coming to the conclusion that Huon Valley Council (HVC) is hopelessly dysfunctional — and, more to the point, way beyond mediation — it was a rearguard action that warrants round condemnation.

My reading of the council that I pay rates to is that HotH members are more interested in saving their arses than they are in responding positively and transparently to the directives that Local Government Minister Peter Gutwein has laid down for the council to meet.

What is not generally known to Huon Valley ratepayers is that council has already paid the better part of $60,000 to lawyers to help it prepare responses designed to refute the BoI findings and recommendations. This information was provided to council by the general manager in response to a “question on notice” from Cr Liz Smith at an earlier meeting.

HAVING watched this awful council in action for about eight years, and limiting myself to the odd gasp of exasperation, I could no longer restrain myself as I left the chamber on July 4. I told the Heart group what a bloody disgrace I thought they were. Heart leader Mike Wilson jeered that I should go home and get a good sleep. I repeated my accusation. He repeated his suggestion. I left. And council went into closed session to consider further ways to foil an open and transparent council response to Gutwein’s ultimatum: if council doesn’t learn how to behave, he’ll sack it within six months.

I am still shocked by the anger I was feeling, having witnessed the recalcitrant Heart group in full stalling mode. Surely by now, I thought, I should be able to leave a council meeting hopelessly resigned to believing that — when it comes to the Heart’s behaviour — I simply have been watching men behaving badly. My problem is that I still can’t get it out of my mind that these people are elected to provide a service of benefit to the community that elects them.

It was surprising to me that the three councillors outside of the Heart umbrella — Mayor Peter Coad, Ian Mackintosh and Liz Smith — did not register more resistance to the move into closed council to discuss how the ministerially-ordained so-called mediation process would be started. After all, it was fairly obvious that it had been generally agreed in open council that councillors, in closed session, would not be considering appointing anyone to handle the mediation process. That was a decision to be left to another day. The process by which to find mediators could easily have been handled in open council.

Aware of the non-Heart trio’s persistent advocacy for open, honest and transparent council behaviour, it may have been, in the heat of the moment, that they were caught off guard, and failed to notice that the move to closed council was neatly tucked into a very long staff recommendation that was dealing with much weightier matters.

Consequently, the nearly 30 of us in the public gallery had to leave so that the “really secret” business could begin. (I seem to recall that, somewhere, the BoI report says too much non-confidential business has been finding its way onto closed-council agendas.)

BEING a person who is all too often eager to find goodness in others, I was yet again disappointed to see the HotH team resolutely vote down a plea for reason, good sense and a commitment to meeting standards reasonably expected by the community.

The plea came from Mayor Coad at the start of the debate on agenda item 4.15.024/14 Board of Inquiry Ministerial Directions. Coad’s obvious intention was to not only give council a chance to be proper in its deliberations, but to be seen to be proper. His motion would have done both of those things in relation to the ridiculous order from Gutwein that mediation (despite the BoI’s firm position that any chance of successful mediation among councillors and the GM was long past) was still the way to go. The mayor’s motion read:

Having considered the Ministerial decisions of the 15 June 2016 and the difficulties for Council to manage this process within the timeframes proposed, it is recommended that the following actions be implemented immediately by Council to ensure an open and transparent process.

1. That Council immediately calls for expression of interests for an independent management consultant to manage the implementation of the Ministerial Directions on behalf of Council and arrange and manage the implementation of the mediation required by the Ministerial Directions.

2. Terms of reference for the Consultancy

2.1 Provide council with a project management plan to implement council responsibilities detailed in the Ministerial Directions of the 15 June 2016.

2.2 Arrange and manage the Mediation processes as required by the Ministerial Directions, including the appointment of a suitable qualified person to undertake the Mediation. This person or persons may be internal or external to the successful consultancy.

2.3 Arrange and manage all reporting required by the Ministerial Directions and liaise with the Local Government Division of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

2.4 Outline to Council all reporting periods on the implementation of the Ministerial Directions.

2.5 Provide recommendations to Council on any matter identified that requires a Council decision, directly or indirectly associated with the Ministerial Directions.

2.6 The consultancy must commence on the 15 July 2016 by arranging a meeting between the General Manager and Mayor to outline the Mediation process unless the Minister approves an extension of time as proposed in part 6 of this motion.

3. That the Governance Committee be delegated by Council to overview the management of the Consultancy and provide recommendations to Council as required.

4. Time table for consultancy appointment

6 July 2016 Advertise for Management Consultant

12 July 2016 closing date for expressions of Interests

14 July 2016 Special Council Meeting Appointment of Consultant

15 July 2016 Consultant to meet with Mayor and GM to arrange Mediation processes.

5. Consultancy expressions of interests to provide details of their organisations, experience, knowledge and skills to deliver the Ministerial directions on behalf of Council.

In addition:

—The consultancy expression of interests must address the Terms of Reference for the Consultancy

— Details of payment schedules to be provided.

— Council reserves the right to not accept the highest or lowest expression of interests to undertake the consultancy.

— Expressions of interests from organisations must provide an ABN number and demonstrate competency to complete the terms of reference for the consultancy.

6. That Council seeks from the Minister an extension of time for Direction 1(a ) for 30 days to 45 days due to the negotiations required to appoint an appropriate consultant and ensure proper governance process are put in place to ensure a successful outcome from those negotiations.

COAD’S MOTION suggests he had tried to consider all angles in coming up with a process that would enable the council he represents to honestly face its electorate and be able to say: “We are doing our best to be, and be seen to be, as open and transparent as possible.”

Coad spoke for his motion along these lines.

He said he had raised the issue of a special meeting at council’s June 22 meeting to deal with the Gutwein directives. Although there were “problematic” issues, he had sensed general agreement for a special meeting.

Next day, June 23, he emailed the GM asking for a special meeting “at her earliest convenience”, and asked for three agenda items: i) an action plan to implement the directives; ii) adoption of the BoI recommendations and its findings; and iii) review of the general manager and the GM’s employment contract. Given that councillors and the GM were aware of the urgency of the matter, date and time were at the discretion of the GM.

The same day, Coad said, the GM told him that, without details, she was unable to provide a report on the third item. He said he had provided those details on the same day, indicating that he was willing to remove that agenda item if the GM did not want it considered.

Items ii) and iii) of his agenda requests were removed, he said, and the GM advised that council was not compelled to adopt any other findings or recommendation of the BoI report [presumably the 48 recommendations that Gutwein ignored in issuing his list of directives].

Coad said he had advised Gutwein that he would work in a “positive and constructive” way to assist with the implementation of his directives and to ensure all councillors received “procedural fairness and natural justice in the process”. He said this should also apply to the GM. “The process also needs to be open and transparent.”

The mayor said that, because he would not be supporting the management recommendations on the agenda, he would “place before council an alternative motion and process” (see above).

Coad referred to the management recommendation, which he said, failed to recognise the root cause of the dysfunction of Council or set out a process to deal with those matters.

The mayor’s motion, falling on the deaf ears of Heart of the Huon members, didn’t have a chance, only Mackintosh and Smith supporting his attempt to enable the council to keep faith with the valley public.

FOR THE mayor to move his motion, he had to vacate his seat as chairman. So he swopped seats with Deputy Mayor Paul. When the mayor ended his comments in support of his motion, Paul invited him to retract a statement he had made. The mayor asked which statement. The one you made, said his deputy. It went on a bit, but Paul didn’t seem able to recall exactly what statement the mayor had made that he was inviting him to retract. And the mayor didn’t seem to think he had said anything out of place. Eventually Paul gave up, so the mayor didn’t have to think further about retracting whatever it was he had said that had offended the ears of the deputy mayor. (I think what it was that had irked Paul was an observation by the mayor that it was perfectly understandable that council management would protect its own position.) The “retract” invitation was a rare lighter moment in a miserable evening watching council successfully enhancing its growing reputation as a secret society.

THE MANAGEMENT recommendation that was passed soon afterwards (with Coad, Mackintosh and Smith voting against) was an amended version of the recommendation that appeared in the meeting documents made available to the public. Consequently, the public were not able to see the amended version. It had been amended as a consequence of Director of Local Government (DLG) Phillip Hoysted having arrived at council’s Huonville offices that afternoon armed with the names of mediators that he offered for council to consider.

The amended management recommendation read (inter alia):

15.024/16A* AMENDED RECOMMENDATION

That: a) The report on the Ministerial Directions dated 15 June 2015 arising from a Board of Inquiry . . . be received and noted; b) Having considered the Ministerial Directions . . . the following timetable and process is adopted:

1 In furtherance of Ministerial Direction 1(a) Council consider, in closed council, appointment of a suitably qualified person to conduct formal mediation and conflict resolution. The criteria for selection of an appropriate person is that the person must have a combination of the following:- — Experience in mediation and conflict resolution in a workplace setting; — Formal qualifications in mediation, conciliation or arbitration; — Experience in local government or a demonstrated understanding of the Local Government Act 1993; — Experience in a corporate environment in mediation and conflict resolution

2 In furtherance of Ministerial Direction 2(a) the General Manager, as soon as practicable call for expressions of interest from suitably qualified persons . . . Expressions of interest be open for . . . seven days. Council to consider the expressions received . . . and the appointment of a mediator at a Special Council Meeting. The criteria for selection . . . is that the person must have a combination of the following: [as in 1]

3 In furtherance of Ministerial Direction 2(b) the Council invite a representative from the Local Government Division of the Department of Premier and Cabinet and a representative from the LGAT [Local Government Association of Tasmania] in the first instance to present training to Councillors in accordance with the Ministerial Direction.

4 In furtherance of Ministerial Direction 1(e) the General Manager, as soon as practicable call for expressions of interest from suitably qualified persons to assist with this Direction. Expressions . . . be open for a period of seven days. Council to consider the expressions . . . and the appointment of a mediator at a Special Council Meeting.

The criteria . . . is that the person must have the following:-

— Experience in assessment of leadership competencies

— Experience in development leadership development plans

— Experience in facilitating delivery of leadership development plans

1 In furtherance of Direction 6 correspondence be sent to the Director of Local Government to determine the key performance indicators (Ministerial Direction 6(i)), which once developed will inform the process to achieve the balance of the Directions contained in Ministerial Direction 6.

c) Council authorises the release of the media release dated 5 July 2016 ‘Council acts on Ministerial Directions’ included in the attachment to this report.

MY READING — as a ratepayer — of this management-recommended motion, is that it would ensure that everything about the dysfunction of HVC is kept under wraps and, ultimately, under the control of the Local Government Division and LGAT, two organisations that, in my experience, are inadequate in managing themselves, let alone capable of arbitrating on the behaviour of what I, and many others in the Huon Valley, regard as our demonstrably dysfunctional council.

It should also be noted that, in (3) of the amended recommendation above, there is no mention of training for herself. I don’t find that surprising considering the recommendation was written under the direction of the GM, but one might reasonably think that, with so many aspects of the BoI report commenting on the performance of senior management, that she might have got the message that it was not only councillors that the report thinks are in need of mediation and training.

Why should the people of the Huon Valley — who elect the councillors who hold the sole authority to appoint and sack the general manager — have to continue to put up with this kind of authority and the secrecy in which it is wrapped?

Twice since 2009 councillors have chosen general managers, and in those years council has continued to stagger from one hiccup (if not crisis) to another. So chaotic did conditions become, the local government minister last September felt compelled to appoint his own inquiry into HVC. And yet, when that board of inquiry found what he suspected, he failed to act on its main recommendation.

It’s perfectly reasonable for ratepayers and valley residents to ask what it was that caused the minister to make a decision so foolish as to order mediation rather than to sack the council and appoint a commissioner (administrator) and sort the council out once and for all.

WITHIN the constraints of a local government act stacked heavily in favour of an unelected management, Peter Coad, HVC’s popularly-elected mayor, is doing his best to eliminate as much of the unacceptable secrecy as possible. Not unexpectedly, attempts are being made to stymie him at every turn, I believe, by a management and a councillor power group that (1) have frozen him out of council affairs, and (2) made his capacity to do his job almost impossible since the day he first sat in the mayor’s office. A lesser people’s representative, I am sure, would have wilted long ago.

From ABC and Mercury reports on July 5, the morning after the special meeting, it appears that council did, in the closed session, delay appointment of a mediator (or facilitator as the ABC reported). So why did the general manager advise the meeting that it was necessary to go into closed council? It would have been so easy to withhold the names presented earlier in the day to council by DLG Hoysted and allow the public gallery to continue to watch their dysfunctional council debate the pros and cons.

(A note here: It turned out later that the July 4 special meeting did not end on July 4. A notice appeared later on the HVC website announcing that the meeting, while in a closed session one would think, had been adjourned. The undated notice reads:

HUON VALLEY COUNCIL

Special Meeting Adjournment

Notice is hereby given that the Special Meeting of the Huon Valley Council of Monday 4 July 2016 has been adjourned. The Special Meeting will be resumed at 12 noon on Thursday 14 July 2016, in the Council Chambers, Huonville.

The meeting will be closed to the public.

Simone Watson

General Manager

Presumably it’s all according to the way the rules are written to adjourn a meeting, but it’s a bit of a puzzle that a meeting called for July 4 can be extended to deal with events that occurred after July 4. Why was the meeting of July 4 not closed and a new meeting date set for July 14? What it does mean, of course, is that the public do not get to see a copy of the minutes of a meeting that didn’t end. I smell a rat, but that’s far too hard a line of investigation to pursue for the moment. So, back to the saga.)

WHAT is also beyond my comprehension is how Minister Gutwein could expect that a council — overwhelmingly defined as hopelessly dysfunctional by a board of inquiry that patiently examined the 80 or so submissions (fact, part-fiction and some pure rumour) for more than seven months — could be allowed to set up a structure/process that allows it to regulate and examine its own inadequacies, yet, simultaneously, dispel voters’ intensifying belief that their local government is a secret society.

BACK to the July 4 special meeting. Mayor Coad, arguing for his motion (above), went on to say that the management recommendation failed to recognise the “root cause of the dysfunction of the council” and to establish a process to deal with it.

He said separation of the functions of mediation and leadership development for the GM and mayor could only lead to a failed outcome. “Council,” he said, “must have a process and an independent person to bring all those elements together.”

Getting to the heart of the matter, Coad said it simply was not “good governance” to have someone do the training-needs analysis and then have some different person arrange and determine the training required if they did not know the training requirements.

As the staff recommendation stood, said Coad, “management will oversee their own recommendations to council and they are part of the dysfunction as identified by the BOI report”. Therefore, it would not be an open transparent process. “Scoping” the project in that way, he said, would only lead to more dysfunction.

The mayor said his motion would deliver all the elements of the ministerial directions and “it is totally independent and gives council an opportunity to address the root causes of the dysfunction.”

His motion would ensure council could be confident that it had done its very best to comply with the ministerial directions and it “will and should leave the minister no option but to continue to support the current council”.

The staff recommendation, he argued, would put the whole process in the hands of council management, even though they were required to be involved in the process and were potentially conflicted.

Coad argued that one independent consultant should be responsible for the whole process. That way, if there were difficulties, the consultant, not the council, would be seen to have failed to deliver the outcomes the minister was seeking.

He said there was nothing in the staff recommendation that would address the minister’s direction that council’s portfolio system must be discontinued within 90 days (Direction 4) and replaced by “sufficient committees . . . to enable the efficient discharge of the council’s powers and functions” (Direction 5). The single management consultant his motion would provide, said Coad, would enable council to comply with those directions.

If the staff recommendation (15.024/16A) was adopted, said Coad, it would certainly continue the dysfunction within council because the root causes would not have been identified, let alone resolved.

He saw a successful outcome for council if it took a “professional and good governance approach” in the appointment of an independent consultant.

Coad told council that, if his motion was not supported, he would continue to participate but with the knowledge that he would be involved in a flawed process that was neither open nor transparent (my emphasis).

It was important, he said, that the community should understand that the minister had given council full responsibility to change its ways, but by adopting the management recommendation nothing could change and the dysfunction identified by the BoI would continue.

THOUGH there were brief items on the ABC and in the Mercury on Tuesday (July 5), the council’s advertisement calling for “expressions of interest” for the jobs as council’s mediators/trainers (or whatever the secret council session had decided on) did not appear in the Mercury until Thursday July 7.

The EOIs, the ad said, had to be in by 9am Monday July 11 (less than two business days from the time of the advertisement!). That sounds to me as if the only persons/organisations in a position to put up a comprehensive EOI case might be those identities whose names had been delivered to council in person by the director of local government at 3pm on July 4, the day of council’s special meeting to deal with agenda item 4: “15.024/16 Board of Inquiry Ministerial Directions”.

It is outrageous to allow less than two working days for interested parties to prepare an application to act as mediators (or whatever) with the task of bringing sweetness and light to a council comprehensively assessed as badly dysfunctional.

The mind boggles at how hard some people are striving to make sure that council remains its own judge and jury of what is good for the people of the Huon Valley, the very people who are the council’s shareholders.

As things stand, the more the Heart of the Huon team votes in approval of management recommendations re the BoI report — and against moves to consider and deal with the 48 BoI recommendations that are not covered by Gutwein’s seven directions — the more suspicious the community is likely to become about the motives of the Heart of the Huon team and the council management that it appears to back through thick and thin.

DEEP in the BoI report is a tantalising paragraph. Its contents were clearly outside of the board’s review period, so, quite correctly, it decided it could not consider them. But the paragraph is well worth reading; and it is reasonable to expect the Director of Local Government to have done (or be intending to do) something about it. Perhaps the DLG would explain what he has done or is intending to do. The relevant paragraph (on page 38 of the report) reads:

The Board was presented with a statutory declaration on another matter, whereby a former employee alleged a set of circumstances that, if proven, exhibit totally unacceptable behaviours by a senior council staff member. When questioned by the board, the senior staff member denied all allegations. No further evidence was presented to the board to substantiate the claim. As such, the board makes no finding but has advised the parties involved that the director of local government has agreed to pursue the matter should they wish.

WELL into the July 4 meeting, Mackintosh put up a motion calling for council to address the outstanding 48 recommendations of the BoI (those not covered by the minister’s directions). On this matter, he did find support in Cr Lydia Eastley (not a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of the Heart voting pattern). However, with Cr James Lange absent, this resulted in a tied vote (Heart members Heron, Paul, Ruzicka and Wilson voting against Mackintosh’s motion, and Coad, Eastley, Mackintosh and Smith voting for it). Under the rules, a vote tied is a motion lost.

Yet again, the Heart team had been successful in preventing council from accepting any responsibility to deal with matters raised in 48 of the BoI’s 55 recommendations. That’s not good enough, and the Heart team should be condemned for its recalcitrance.

A DISINTERESTED observer of events since Gutwein announced his board of inquiry last September offers this view of council’s (adjourned) July 4 special meeting. He says:

The earliest of the deadlines imposed by the minister was 30 days from receipt on 15 June. They wasted 19 of those days before even having a meeting to discuss the ministerial directions. I use the word discuss loosely since there was no discussion about the report or the minister’s directions arising from it. I find that incredible — both that it took 19 days to call a meeting [from the day of issue of the minister’s directions] and that they then didn’t discuss anything of substance! My understanding is that if it had been left to the GM, there still wouldn’t have been a meeting. Presumably, the longer you leave it, the more likely to make a forced decision as July 15 approaches.

That the HotH members voted down a proposal that as far as I know simply said that the council intended to look at all the findings in the report and advise ratepayers what if any action they would take, shows a lack of interest in pursuing the report and a disregard for the people who elect them.

The highlight was Deputy Mayor Paul saying that it wouldn’t look good if the council put out an open tender for the mediator and that it would be far more transparent if they selected one of the mediators suggested by the director of local government. Paul kept a straight face while saying this.

Very disappointing that three weeks after receiving the report, the council has not officially met to discuss the contents of the report. This does not bode well for the seriousness with which the matter should be treated.

Difficult to see how the mayor and councillors can be treated fairly if the GM is in charge of the council’s response to the report.

The mayor’s suggestion to have an independent person manage the process was sound.

THIS WRITER’S view is that the behaviour of the council I pay rates to is on the nose. And we haven’t yet got around to what is the hidden agenda behind council’s Huon-D’Entrecasteaux consultation adventure (I expect a solid rejection, especially from Kingborough Council voters who live in that area); or which ex-minister is busy working behind the scenes on some new cargo-cult venture in the deeper realms of the Deep South; or how Dennis Bewsher thinks he’s got a better chance of getting permission to disfigure Surges Point and Waterloo Bay under the recently commenced new planning scheme (which is supposed to have more teeth than the old scheme to prevent the type of project he is advocating); or why council, despite good advice from the Tasmanian Planning Commission, continued to waste a month of costly staff time and legal advice failing to explain why council had the authority to deal with Bewsher’s original Waterloo Bay application; or what is going on with the privatised Geeveston Town Hall, a chain of events about which the mayor has clearly often been left in the dark (who, for instance, is the councillor replacement for ex-councillor Ken Studley on the GTH board?); or what council’s role is in extracting $70,000 from the federal government for a study of Studley’s pie-in-the-sky ‘Geeves Effect’ invasion of the southwest World Heritage Area; or whether we are going to hear any more about the scandal of the (long-identified-nothing-done-for years) broken asbestos in the Cygnet Town Hall; or whether we have heard the last about the circumstances surrounding council’s leasing arrangements for the Cygnet caravan park; or whether the full asbestos story will ever be told about the 2009 dawn bulldozer destruction of the old Franklin football clubrooms; or why it took council two years to sort out how an unapproved and illegal jetty was allowed to mysteriously appear on the Franklin riverfront and still no one has been brought to book for constructing that illegal jetty in full view of the council …

One day, I believe, this council without shame must be subjected to a serious forensic study — possibly going back to the day it was established in 1993.

Local Government Minister Peter Gutwein has the authority to order such a process. Though he might not realise it, such a decision could win a lot of support for his wobbly Liberal Party. But whether he has the courage to face down those in the Huon Valley who would oppose him is something else. A sensation that nags me constantly is that the Heart team appears to have enough support in the state political hierarchy (Liberal and Labor) to enable it to ride roughshod through the crisis that today grips Huon Valley Council. — Bob Hawkins

*Bob Hawkins has been covering Huon Valley Council for Tasmanian Times for seven years. He is a friend of Cr Smith, and an admirer of Mayor Coad for doggedly trying to bring reason to a dysfunctional council. — See more at: http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/article/huon-valley-guessing-games-dysfunctions-the-name-of-the-game/, http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/article/huon-valley-guessing-games-its-time-to-act-mr-gutwein/ and http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/article/huon-valley-council-read-for-yourself-/ . His work is collected HERE

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. TH

    July 10, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    who cares? Aren’t all politicians at all levels tarred with the same brush? The worse thing the community ever did was to agree to pay these local government reps. In the old days, egos provided enough in reward for these upstart grandees to don their municipal badges. Now it is money, as well. I guess political Utopia is not built in a day ( particularly if it must go to a sub-committee firstly)

    Cheers,

    TH

  2. Gordon Bradbury

    July 10, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    How can an impoverished, poorly educated population of 500,000 hope to sustain 29 local councils (totalling how many elected representatives??), a State Parliament of 40 elected members and 17 elected Federal Representatives? That is a huge intellectual and moral challenge for our little backwater in the Southern Ocean!
    Within this context the fact that the HVC is completely dysfunctional, … self-interest … should be no great surprise at all.
    If we abolished local Government in Tasmania and increased the State Parliament to 100 members, we could concentrate what little intellectual and moral capital we have in Tasmania into a better functioning Parliament.
    Trying to patch up the existing system seems to me to be a waste of time.
    Any ideas??

    (edited)

  3. Geoffrey Swan

    July 10, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    Mayor Coad proposed the only sensible and transparent way forward with respect to selecting person(s) or firm(s) for mediation and training at last week’s meeting and that is to go to a public tender process.

    The Heart of the Huon bloc (now without former councillor Ken Studley), as one, rejected Coad’s proposal to take the matter to an open public tender. Cr Mackintosh provided positive support and added meaningful comment. Smith, with sensible comment, similarly supported and endorsed Mayor Coad’s recommendation.

    The HotH response, a totally stupid decision, displayed an alarming lack of intelligence on the part of our elected “representatives”.

    I support Bob Hawkins’ call for an interstate mediator, not a local Tasmanian entity ( http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/article/huon-valley-guessing-games-dysfunctions-the-name-of-the-game/ ). We already know too well the issues of familial relations in Tasmania. And the latest observation from Bob suggesting HVC has allowed only two business days for any responses is simply ludicrous.

    Personally, I do not believe our council will survive the six month period the minister has granted it. If there is to be any chance of bringing harmony, transparency and cooperation within this group of community representatives and the GM, every single step from here on must be open and outside any possible conflict of interest.

    A completely professional (and normal) tender process must be implemented immediately if we are to have any chance of any positive outcomes for the residents of the Huon Valley.

    I believe the Director of Local Government must bow out of the process, the Mayor must be provided with his due authority and the HotH bloc must immediately change their ways.

  4. Mike Bolan

    July 10, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    One root cause of this stupidity is that ratepayers have no independent recourse to Council actions (only via LGAT the Councils representative body); and no right to review Council decisions. Without those two recourses there is no mechanism to achieve accountability.
    I’d also suggest that the purpose of the Council be clearly defined so that appropriate assessments can be made.

  5. Ingerlise Armand

    July 10, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    In my opinion Huon Valley Council should merge with Kingborough Council. It is about time.

  6. John Maddock

    July 10, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    #5 Maybe we don’t want to. 😉

    I don’t have much time for most of Kingborough’s councillors, but I dare not think what a Huon infection might cause!

    JV

  7. Bob Hawkins

    July 10, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    #6. John, you’re just an old cynic. I abhor the concept of amalgamations purely for the sake of making economic gains, and I believe they are destructive of “community”. But I don’t see any way of breaking the nexus between HVC and those that work the puppet strings apart from amalgamation with Kingborough. By the way, how do you think Margate, Channel and Bruny would feel about a “boundary adjustment” that roped them into HVC?

  8. Trish Kyne

    July 11, 2016 at 12:09 am

    Council’s EOI advertisement for mediators was, to me, a cynical pretence at transparency. Such notifications from a government facility, requiring the respondents to fulfil such an important role, needs to attract the highest calibre of applicant. Therefore, I would expect the advertisement to be placed in a newspaper with the widest readership. In most states in the nation, that would be a Saturday paper. Thursday is not casting the net very wide.

    I am also used to such advertisements being placed on a State Government website, which would be checked daily by interested parties used to tendering for a variety of services, all open and transparent. I also believe there should be a legal requirement for government tenders to have a minimal time frame — say two weeks rather than a miserable two working days.

    The fact that the director of local government (and his entourage) drove to Huonville with a “list of names” for the council to consider, raises questions. Does the Local Government Division of the Department of Premier and Cabinet not trust council’s capability to cope alone? If it doesn’t, why wasn’t the council sacked as the BOI report recommends?

    Why would someone who has the job of overseeing council’s progress in responding properly to the minister’s directives decide to intervene in such an overt way?

    Perhaps the DLG was instructed by a higher authority to intervene? If it’s deemed that the council is in need of hand-holding, it’s more evidence that the BoI was right: the council is seen as being dysfunctional and needs to be sacked.

  9. John Maddock

    July 11, 2016 at 2:27 am

    Bob #6

    You are probably correct about being both old & a cynic!

    I have no idea how the non-urban Kingboroughites would think of being roped into the Huon. Much too complex a question for me

    JV

  10. Scott of Margate

    July 11, 2016 at 3:40 am

    @7: It would cause me to move!

  11. Bob Hawkins

    July 11, 2016 at 11:33 am

    #3. Going to a public tender process, Geoffrey, is only a small start to achieving an open and totally transparent process. Chances are, at least one of the mediation (or whatever) jobs will go to one of the names the DLG gave to council on July 4. If that happens, the process, in my estimation, will immediately have been corrupted, in my view. And, I believe, as long as a central figure in the situation that the board of inquiry found to be hopelessly dysfunctional is allowed to lay down the the terms of the mediation process, there is no chance of justice and fairness being afforded to any of the councillors, in particular Mayor Coad. My understanding, for a start, is that he alone of council staff/councillors is having to pay his own legal costs resulting from the BoI. The balance of council legal costs, on the GM’s admission, is being paid either by rate/taxpayers or by some insurance company if it is gullible enough to fork out for legal expenses incurred by a council that, through its own behaviour, brought the “wrath” of the minister down on it. The council’s BoI legal costs are somewhere just short of $60,000 (not including the mayor’s). And no one knows yet how much rate/taxpayers are going to have to pay for the cost of the board of inquiry: some rumoured estimates on that front are not far short of $100,000. But we shouldn’t worry about that. We don’t have any work to do. We’re just the suckers watching on — and paying for it all.

  12. henrietta manning

    July 11, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    The 2 working days allowed by the HVC advertisement in which to expect adequate EOI’s to be prepared and received for the position of independent mediator is ludicrous, i for one shall be passing this information on to minister Gutwein and asking him if he thinks this is professional practice? Will the public have access to the list of applicants from whom the choice will be made, so those interested can attempt to assess the standard of applicant available?
    I have never understood the reasoning behind the ruling that a tied vote at council is instead deemed a motion lost?It is not lost or won, it is tied….surely further debate should be held until a member is persuaded to change their view and then the vote would be clearly lost or won?
    I feel very sorry for all those councillors and staff at HVC that want to do the best they can for their community,[ and that i have seen at council meetings conducting themselves admirably and politely while under considerable duress], having to endure this toxic work environment created by a minority.
    Perhaps the reason the minister chose not to dissolve the HVC would be the problem finding any replacements….would you have the passion, dedication and self sacrifice needed not just to put in the long hours but to put the interest of the community first without bias or self interest? And to try to do this in a community worn out and jaded from poor prior experience?. As for the position of Mayor,who would want that? If you read the BOI it is obvious that there is little in the system to support that role and neither are you allowed to have a personal voice. The irony is that it is the Mayors personal voice for change that won him the election.

  13. Trish Kyne

    July 11, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    #10 Scott, I hope you click on the HVC website regarding the grab for part of Kingborough and state your displeasure!No comment will be viewed as acceptance.

    #11 Bob, I agree.

  14. Carol Rea

    July 11, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    #7 as a Margate dweller I would be looking to secede if the HVC boundary changes !

  15. Andrew Wyminga

    July 11, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Many in our Glamorgan Spring Bay Council (similarly subject to a BOI and with a new Mayor trying hard to bring transparency and accountability to our Council) will feel great sympathy for the HVC ratepayers.
    Here is a media release sent out last week by a Council employee on the authority of the Deputy Mayor. Warning!: Better sit down before perusing it in all its ugliness. Of course no contact was made with the Mayor to dicuss this media release before it went to press.

    Deputy Mayor Cheryl Arnol said ‘it was unfortunate that
    Mayor Kent had not taken the time to discuss the matter with
    his fellow councillors before going to print particularly given
    he had only recently returned from 7 weeks leave and may not
    have been fully aware of the progress’.
    Clr Britt Steiner was ‘surprised to read the tirade against local
    government structures’ and expressed concern that the
    message was very divisive. Clr Steiner is distressed that she
    had no idea that the Mayor felt this way particularly given that
    there had been no enquiry from him nor any communication
    with his team. Clr Steiner further commented that ‘any
    comments a Mayor makes should come with the endorsement
    of councillors and this tirade does not’.
    Former Mayor, Clr. Bertrand Cadart expressed the view that
    Mayor Kent’s statement: ”Local Government is like banging
    your head against a brick wall” is unspeakable and
    demonstrates a total lack of respect towards a most rewarding
    job awarded by one’s trusting local community. Clearly Mayor
    Kent should remember who put him in the Mayor’s chair in
    the first place” said Clr. Cadart. “Furthermore, if only due to
    his age, Mayor Kent must be aware that politicians “come and
    go” but institutional administrative framework, starting with
    the General Manager, must however, be solid, steadfast,
    coherent and ensure the continuity of sound governance
    regardless of the political contexts of the day.” added Clr.
    Cadart. “It appears that Mayor Kent finds it difficult to deal
    “with bruises in his head” (Mercury June 24, 2016, page 9)
    well… perhaps he ought to be aware that one cannot just
    accuse the “bricks” on the outside but also the “rocks” on the
    inside to cause bruising in one’s head.” said Clr. Cadart.
    “Furthermore, I have observed, since the last elections, an
    extreme willingness and patience consistently demonstrated by
    the very experienced Deputy Mayor Arnol, to “show the
    ropes” in the most decent faith to a new Mayor obviously very
    “green” and totally ignorant of local government procedures
    and behavioural patterns only to be snubbed and treated with
    extraordinary disdain” concluded Clr. Cadart.
    Clrs Richard Parker and Jenny Woods share the views of
    Deputy Mayor Arnol, Clr Cadart and Clr Steiner and were
    concerned that the Mayor had portrayed a personal opinion
    that could give the community the perception that the Council
    was not operating within the bounds of the Local Government
    Act.
    A review of the recommendations shows that many of them
    have been dealt with over recent months. For the sake of
    good governance, some of the recommendations require on

    going review and action from both Councillors and staff. The
    Deputy Mayor said that ‘the recommendations most lacking in
    action are the two attributed to requiring attention by the
    Mayor”.
    Clr Kent’s attack on the Director of Local Government was
    unwarranted and uncalled for and should not be construed as
    the view of Glamorgan Spring Bay Council. Mayors are not
    only the official spokesperson for councils but also their
    unifier, so they should be very careful to ensure that the views
    they express in the public arena are in fact the view of the
    Council as a whole. Anything less can lead to confusion and a
    community perception that the council is divided.
    The Mayor had the opportunity to have input into the roles
    and responsibilities of Mayors, Elected Members and General
    Manager with the recent targeted review of the Local
    Government Act 1993 which is due to go to Parliament early
    next year.
    Deputy Mayor Arnol said: ‘this tirade by Mayor Kent only
    serves to highlight that it was a major error of judgement on
    the government’s part to change the Local Government Act
    1993 to allow people with no local government experience to
    stand for Mayor particularly when one of the prime
    responsibilities of the Mayor is to rationally lead and provide
    guidance to the Council and elected members to assist them in
    fulfilling their roles. If there is no belief in the effectiveness of
    the Local Government Act or an understanding of the
    structure of local government by the Mayor, then there can be
    nothing but derision and mockery in the way the Mayor
    undertakes this role”.
    See Original Release here: http://gobcnews.weebly.com/uploads/2/0/4/7/20471190/issue_27.2016.pdf

  16. Carol Rea

    July 11, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    For all who would be interested here is the link to the HVC survey.
    Apparently the Huon Valley Council would like feedback on whether they should pursue a boundary adjustment taking in Bruny and all land north from current boundary to North West Bay River.
    Please could you circulate in your local networks.
    http://www.huonvalley.tas.gov.au/consultations/huon-dentrecasteaux/

  17. Pat Caplice

    July 12, 2016 at 1:31 am

    #5 and 6 and 10
    All i can do is conjure up the spirit of Doc Neeson. No Way, Get F*cked, F*ck Off!
    Pat
    Margate
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_py6WbMV1k

  18. di heywood

    July 12, 2016 at 10:31 am

    Here we go again! too many councils in this state what a farce!.it seems all the fat cats are feathering their own nests!And dont give a rats about the rate payers.as for the boundary adjustments for hvc I doubt very much it will ever happen god help the residents of margate and bruny if it does eventuate.the state govt should have sacked the whole lot of hvc and started again .

  19. Scott of Margate

    July 13, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    #14: Sure did. Not that adverse feedback seems to affect HVC decision making….

  20. Sleepless in Franklin

    July 14, 2016 at 8:07 am

    Huon Valley ratepayers need to have confidence that the mayor they elected to drive reform and transparency within their council will not just be “mediated” aside, and that the issues won’t just be “mediated” away.

    As I understand it, the history of the BoI report process shows that the first draft was returned by Gutwein for amendments. Forgive my speculation that these could have included the insertion of the “soft” mediation option that he eventually followed. Do our contributors with legal expertise know the limits of RTI/FoI with respect to discovery on this?

    If the mediation option were a late addition, forgive my further speculation that the “list of names” involvement of the DLG could indicate a pre-arranged understanding of how the outcomes could be driven. I mean Lordy knows what ugly stuff could be illuminated in past council dealings if an independent administrator managed to look at the books – and also gained the confidence of current and former HVC employees.

    Given current party-political affiliations and positions, which political brand could suffer the most embarrassment?

  21. Cathy

    July 17, 2016 at 2:07 am

    After reading the report about the dysfunction in HVC, My understanding of this mess, is a clash of personalities, mainly between the General Manager and the Mayor. May I suggest they both surrender their positions and the positions are re-advertised so the people involved can move on. An election will sort the rest out. It isn’t rocket science!

  22. Bob Hawkins

    July 17, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    #21. Cathy, you’ve got it so wrong. It’s not a clash of personalities that is at the core of council’s dysfunction. What it’s all about is good governance, something I’ve rarely seen a glimmer of since I began observing HVC in 2008. For me, the return to council of Peter Coad in November 2014 provided the first glimmer of hope that quality local government at last had a chance of blossoming in the Huon Valley.

  23. Geoffrey Swan

    July 17, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    #21. Cathy, I am relatively new to all this HVC mess and I have nowhere near the knowledge of Bob Hawkins, but I can assure you from my past 12 months’ involvement, observations and subsequent research, it is without any hesitation whatsoever that I fully endorse Bob’s #22 comments.

    One just need attend a single HVC meeting and the total dysfunction is very apparent. Despite the adversity somehow Mayor Coad has the fortitude and energy to stand strong and firm in his quest for truth and honesty. From my observations, no matter what the issue, it appears he is being blocked at every move by either management, the HotH mob and possibly even the State Liberal Government to include the DLG and Minister Gutwein.

    The ongoing chaos, the apparent waste of our Council funds, and the delay in getting on with the jobs we expect of our Council, which now includes acting on the directions in the BOI, has absolutely nothing to do with Mayor Coad.

    We must not forget that Mayor Coad was duly elected by the majority of Ratepayers on his mandate for transparency, good governance and in the hope he will inevitably be able to open our Council’s Pandora’s box .

  24. Trish Kyne

    July 17, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    #21 My understanding of the situation, Cathy, is that a lot of power was delegated by the last mayor to the general manager’s position. The public assumes that the mayor can solve all their problems because they believe the power in council lies with the mayor’s position. However, all operational control, plus whatever authority was delegated to that position, lies with the general manager.

    The very public and orchestrated character assassination of the current mayor started during the lead up to the council elections. This, I believe, had nothing to do with council business, and everything to do with some candidates not getting the position they had sought. One expects adults to bury personal feelings when voted into a public institution and get on with the job. Instead, I believe we have had an inordinate amount of council time and ratepayers’ money, consumed by the on-going campaign to ‘get the mayor’.

    The 55 recommendations of the BOI relate to governance issues, therefore are operational issues and belong in the domain of the general manager.

    If we had a cohesive council, without various alliances, one could assume the council would review the BOI recommendations and vote to have the delegated authority returned to the council table and take control of the governance issues and bring transparency into council dealings.

    This won’t happen due to the fact that the controlling vote lies with a group that – in my view – deplores openness and transparency, and has very little idea about governance issues. It seems to escape the attention of this group that they are voted to council to represent the ratepayers.

    Questions posed at the last council meeting, revealed that the cost to council for responses and legal advice during the BOI was in the vicinity of $54,000. This sum was treated as insignificant by stating the insurance would cover all but $3,000. I wonder if we will be told if the insurance company rejects the claim.

    Subsequent to this, an exchange between the mayor and the general manager regarding the public release of these ratepayer-funded reports, revealed the general manager was not going to release them as they were under closed council business. The mayor said the documents were all ready in the public arena and the general manager said ‘prove it’. The mayor said he had a letter from the manager of the radio station 7hoFM confirming they had the report (the one that mysteriously turned up in Mick Newell’s letter box). We know from that interview that the mayor had not commissioned the report in Newell’s possession … more red herrings and lots of unanswered questions.

  25. Scott

    July 20, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    #24 Trish. regarding Council’s Insurer’s with coverage for legal representation. It is my understanding that a separate insurance item or package has to be purchased to provide coverage for this type of thing as an add on to public liability coverage. Most Local Councils would not have taken out this additional unit regarding extra liability due to cost reasons. Not entirely certain if this report is for personal legal representation or for the business representation, however the report identifies individuals so it would seem that any legal advice sought against the BOI report would be for individuals within the business. anyway it still means the ratepayers foot the bill for poor governance matters, thus affecting positive outcomes for the Valley by allocating funds to unnecessary matters

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top