COFFS HARBOUR CITY COUNCIL
Mr ANDREW FRASER
(Coffs Harbour) [11.53 a.m.]: On 31 August I received a letter from Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce, which states:
Attached is a copy of correspondence directed to the Minister for Local Government, Barbara Perry.
The Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce seeks your support both publicly and through parliamentary process in forwarding this matter.
Chamber representatives are available at any convenient time to pursue what it believes is a particularly significant local and statewide concern.
The chamber of commerce board met to discuss Coffs Harbour City Council and the recent sacking of its general manager, and passed the following motion:
The chamber calls for the councillors to give a full and frank public disclosure within 14 days of formal request, of all the facts in respect of the impasse between the mayor and the GM and the GM's subsequent dismissal and payout.
The chamber calls for an independent person or body to oversee the appointment of a new GM as council has demonstrated its inability to Act effectively in its recent re-appointment of Steve Sawtell as the GM. The chamber also has concerns about the role the mayor played in the events leading up to the GM's dismissal and the statutory legitimacy of the mayor's intervention as questions now arise in regards to his future impartiality during the selection process.
The chamber proceed with a media statement advising that prior to the dismissal of the GM the chamber had written to all councillors advising of the chamber's concerns regarding the Model Code of Conduct and the responsibility of council officers. The chamber did not receive any response to this correspondence and it appears that the councillors and staff's indifference to their public responsibilities has now extended to ignoring the public outcry regarding the dismissal of the GM and the substantial costs involved.
That the chamber writes to the Minister for Local Government suggesting:
The Review and Investigation Branch institute annual random audits of a minimum of ten (10) NSW local councils to establish the degree to which the letter, spirit and intention of the Model Code of Conduct have been implemented.
Provision be made for community involvement into these reviews.
A copy of the correspondence be sent to the member for Coffs Harbour asking for his support.
On 28 July I attended a public meeting to listen to the concerns of the public. I did not vote at the meeting when the following three motions were passed:
I move that in light of the much publicised, apparent administrative dysfunction associated with the conditional resignation of the Coffs Harbour City Council's General Manager, this public meeting petition the NSW Parliament, the Minister for Local Government and the Director General of the Department of Local Government to immediately initiate an investigation into the Coffs Harbour city council under Part 5, Division 1, Section 430 or Section 740 (1) to (5) of the Local Government Act.
That motion was passed unanimously. The second motion states:
I move that the motion as put and passed, be sent to the Minister for Local Government and the Director General of the Department of Local Government, with a letter detailing all matters of public concern in relation to the performance of the Mayor, Councillors and staff of the Coffs Harbour City Council and that confidentiality be given to those individuals raising these matters.
That motion was also passed unanimously. The third motion states:
I move that those present at this meeting no longer have any confidence in the Mayor, the General Manager, the Councillors and certain staff of Coffs Harbour City Council.
That motion of no confidence was passed without the support of councillors Hines, Knight, Templeton and Graham, whom I commend for attending. Following the meeting, Council Kerry Hines told the media:
It is a sad situation when the general manager does not want to be there anymore and we do not want to sack him either. I wish I knew what was behind it but at the end of the day, do you want someone there who does not want to be there?
It has been a really difficult situation for the mayor and the GM and I'd hate to be working there (council). We need some resolution and we need to move on.
This week I presented a petition to Parliament with 1,150 signatures calling for a full and open investigation of Coffs Harbour City Council and the issues surrounding the sacking of its general manager. It is high time that the people of Coffs Harbour—the ratepayers—got the details. Issues involving ratepayers' money and the effective running of Coffs Harbour City Council cannot be hidden behind a veil of secrecy. I ask the Minister to act on the wishes of the chamber of commerce and the people of Coffs Harbour and instigate an investigation immediately.