I MUST admit to misplacing my cool for just a little while at the end of tonight's closed council meeting. I am prohibited by law from saying what the meeting was for, but believe me, it was more than a little pointless and could have been dealt with in open session.
It's what happened after the meeting that got my dander up. After declaring the meeting closed, Mayor Martyn Evans advised that if councillors were contacted by a certain party in connection with legal action against the council and certain individuals, we were to advise the gentleman in question to contact the general manager or the council lawyer.
I immediately asked for a full briefing on the matter, as I am in effect one of the council's "board of directors" and should be aware of matters affecting the council. Mayor Evans advised that as I not a councillor when the legal matter arose, and as I had refused to sign a confidentiality agreement, I could not be briefed on the matter. Some would say that this is where I hit the roof.
As a lawfully elected councillor and having signed a declaration of office, I am obliged by law to keep confidential any matters from a closed council meeting, I said. I demanded a full briefing and also the details of who had been named in the legal action. General manager Stephen Mackey invited me to visit his office for a personal apprisal of the matter. I refused this offer because I will not be party to backroom briefings. All councillors should be provided with exactly the same information at the same time.
Cr Judy Bromfield objected to my making notes of the exchange, and left the courthouse. Cr James Graham advised that he too knew nothing of the legal matter. Cr Jim Elliott supported my stance and said all councillors should be brought up-to-date with the matter.
After much posturing (mostly by me) and a funny little exchange where the general manager and I repeated ourselves for a while, I demanded that a closed meeting be held next week for a full briefing. The mayor agreed to this and undertook to make the necessary arrangements.
So in the next few days you will see a notice in the daily newspaper, advising that you are not allowed to attend a meeting that will be held next week. I regret that a closed meeting appears to be the only way to deal with this matter. However, the truth will eventually see the light.
As I prepared to leave the chamber the general manager reminded those present that the meeting was still "closed" and no details could be made public. I replied that the meeting was indeed "closed" in the sense that the mayor had long since declared it finished, and the last half-hour or so had been a post-meeting discussion.