Fawcett: “There are good people in Council. Just not enough of them.”
THE future of South Gippsland Shire Council hangs in the balance, with the resignation of two more councillors.
Another is rumoured to be considering their future.
The resignation of Cr Jim Fawcett and Cr Lorraine Brunt, both former mayors, comes in the wake of a closed session last Wednesday to discuss the future of CEO Tim Tamlin. The closed-door meeting ended with councillors voting to advertise the CEO position when Mr Tamlin completes his current contract on June 24.
However, neither councillor has indicated their resignation was directly influenced by the result of the vote. Both will finish up on April 1, and both say the toxic culture that saw the resignations last year of Cr Maxine Kiel and Cr Meg Edwards still persists.
In a letter to journalists announcing his resignation, Cr Fawcett, who replaced Cr Edwards in November 2018, said “the bullying and intimidatory behaviour” still plagues Council despite the “best endeavours” of government-appointed monitor, Peter Stephenson.
“I have witnessed similar behaviour by that same core of Councillors. Withholding information, misrepresenting conversations, restricting Councillor discussions, threats of legal action, ignoring obvious conflicts of interest and having little regard for convention, meeting norms or good governance,” Cr Fawcett wrote.
“This has had a significant impact on the health and well-being of some Councillors and officers. I have observed a lack of leadership on crucial confidential matters and a lack of clear direction to Council officers. I have experienced reversals of Council direction and even a formal Council decision from one week to the next.
“I entered Council with the belief that two new Councillors would provide a circuit breaker to relationships and behaviours within the group. Despite efforts, this has not occurred.”
Cr Fawcett said he believed that some councillors had “allowed their personal objectives to override their duty to act in the best interests of the community”.
“I am not prepared to be a party to or try to defend decisions this Council has made or is in the process of making,” he said.
“There are good people on Council. Just not enough of them. They recognise there are unresolved deep-seated issues.
Those responsible for the problems will simply either stay silent, deny there is a problem or blame everyone else but themselves.”
Cr Brunt, who announced she was leaving soon after Cr Fawcett went public with his letter, said, she was “not being given an equal voice and the lack of good governance that exists is of great concern to me”.
“I am especially concerned with the self-interest decision making that does not have the community’s best interest at heart,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mayor Cr Don Hill has directly linked the latest resignations to the vote on Mr Tamlin.
“At a confidential meeting on Wednesday which has now been made public, Council voted to advertise the CEO position when the current contract ends on 24 June. It is disappointing to hear that Cr Fawcett and Cr Brunt resigned soon after,” he said in a statement.
“Whilst every Councillor has the right to take such action it is disappointing that they chose not to continue to represent the ratepayers that elected them both and support the decision of Council.
“Council is functioning effectively ensuring a good and appropriate governance standard with the assistance of the oversight of the municipal monitor. The remaining seven Councillors will continue to represent the ratepayers to the best of their abilities and will welcome the two new Councillors when they take up their positions.”
Cr Hill said that “event will not impact the ability of Council to provide good governance or deliver services to its community. Council wishes both Cr Fawcett and Cr Brunt all the best and thanks them for their service to the community.”