Letter: Council Culture Of Secrecy Confirmed

Filed in editorletters, Recent News by December 3, 2019

Dear Editor,

I first wrote to the General Manager, Steve McDonald 10 weeks ago, concerned that the Council was incorrectly recording Council resolutions from meetings and thereby keeping secret from you, information you would expect and have a right to know.

I have NOT HAD A RESPONSE, despite two more letters and published Letters to the Editor.

In disgust and frustration, I gave a presentation directly to the full Council in the Public Participation portion of the last Council meeting, November 25.

The rude interjections and treatment I received from the Mayor and some Councillors during both my presentations was bad enough, however, the treatment from the Mayor to Councillor Abbott was the worst display of chairmanship I have seen in 43 years of attending Council meetings. I urge members of the public to listen to the audio recording and judge for yourself, disgraceful.

A link to audio files of presentations at the meeting can be heard here: Airport Motion: Hear the Meeting Youself.

Very interestingly, immediately following the Council Meeting, General Manager Steve McDonald published in the Scone Advocate and posted on Social Media an “Open Letter”, denying any hint of secrecy, remonstrating that “ you can be confident” that Council is fully compliant, through “correct” procedures and processes, because Council is highly regulated.

scone.com.au was not sent the Open Letter referred to, but it can be read here: Council Puts It Out There.

“We seek, welcome and are appreciative of community involvement” writes Mr. McDonald.

Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth, from my experience. Consider 10 weeks without a response on such an important issue as a Council acting secretly, keeping information hidden from you that you are entitled to know. There was certainly NO welcome and definitely NO appreciation.

It has always been my concern that Upper Hunter Shire Council continues to breach Local Government Regulations. In fact, the Office of Local Government (2013 publication, pp10/11) states that the wording used by UHSC in its recording of Council meeting resolutions “DOES NOT MEET THE REQUISITE STANDARDS OF ACCOUNTABILITY EXPECTED OF COUNCIL DECISION MAKING”, supporting my contentions.

I would have preferred this matter dealt be with by direct correspondence, however given zero response and the general Manager’s “Open Letter”, I have no choice to respond accordingly with the letter I received from Mr. Tim Hurst, Deputy Secretary, Local Government, Planning and Policy last Friday, November 28.

The letter from the Office Of Local Government responding to Mr Dutton’s concerns.

The CULTURE OF SECRECY that has pervaded this Council in recent years MUST STOP NOW. There were 18 more non-compliant resolutions recorded at the last Council Meeting, in the direct face of my presentation.

Those responsible for this MALADMINISTRATION must be held accountable, particularly given the continuation of the non-compliance whilst publicly remonstrating that “you should be confident” Council is correctly following rules and regulations. The Mayor and General Manager are in untenable positions on this matter, in my view.

The ONLY way that Council can redress the breaches of compliance now, is to correct the record, bring forward each of the prior decisions recorded incorrectly to a future Council meeting, where open scrutiny can be properly exercised and some public confidence restored. The breaches in reporting of Council decisions date back beyond the time of the secret sale of the Scone Library Building to at least 2014, when Michael Johnsen was Mayor.

A public apology should be forthcoming to the community for Council failure to act to the requisite standards.

Daryl Dutton.

Daryl Dutton is a resident and ratepayer of Scone, he is also a former General Manager of the Upper Hunter Shire Council.

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