Tuesday 22 January 2008

Douglas’s day of the Long Knives

Vendetta politics were on full show at the Douglas Shire Council chambers today.

In an extraordinary conclusion to private investigators, reports and up to $100,000 of Council funds being expended on digging up what could only be called as trivial nonsense, all happening in the last few days of the Douglas Shire Council's existence, the Police were called to this morning's Council meeting.

Protesters tried to intervene in the proceedings by the now in-famous Douglas "gang of four", namely Councillors Sciacca, Bellero, Egan and Pitt.

Empty chairs were a common sight at today's Douglas Council meeting.

In Douglas’s last meeting before the ‘caretaker Council’ takes over prior to the local election in 50 days time, the knives were out.

"If we are going down, were taking you lot with us,” seems to be the Douglas Shire Council’s parting gesture.

Port Douglas Police were called to this morning's meeting to remove public protesters who wouldn't leave the Council chambers following Councillors Sciacca, Bellero, Egan and Pitt, who tried to effectively sack David Carey, Council's General Manager Corporate Services & Community, in closed meeting.

This was to in direct conflict to the CMC's investigation findings that showed no wrong-doing by Carey.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission last year investigated claims that the Council Minutes deliberately were tampered or words changed. They found that no one was in any way liable for the change of wording and that it was simply an an error. David Carey was the manager responsible for Minutes.

Douglas Police talking to protesters and Gazette reporter.

Despite the CMC's clearance, Douglas Councillors Sciacca, Bellero, Egan and Pitt wanted to terminate Carey's employment at today's Council meeting.

Carey is now, after Leu's departure, the hightest Council officer.

Public protesters who had come to the meeting, refused to leave the room whilst the attempts to dismiss Carey were discussed. They were threatened that a $3,500 fine would apply, should they not leave the meeting.

After a long period, the majority of Council resolved to call the Police so the discussion could proceed out of the eyes of public witnesses.

The public had earlier watched as Councillor David Egan, with support from Councillors Sciacca, Bellero, and Pitt, have rival Councillor Rod Davis thrown out of the meeting.

Councillor Davis’s 'crime' was to write an email about a toilet door jammed. This is about the (to become the headlined ) , in a light hearted email, where Rod, like Tony Abbot, suggested “shit happens”, as indeed does when you are in long cue for a loo!

Here's the offending email in full, and in context (the offending words are in Bold):
  • To: Cr Melinda Cox; Corporate; Jeff Evans
    Cc: 'Irby, Ross'; 'Cutler, Bruce'; Councillors; Internal--All DSC Staff (Admin Building); thackrays@tcp.newsltd.com.au;
    Paul Trotman; David Carey; Ext-Port Douglas 107.1 FM
    Subject: Toilet Time

    Hi All...

    I agree it would be great to give Port Garden's park a loo....and I support the idea, but, the Excello is the "Lexus" of loos, and it is intended for high use, and it's self cleaning ability is why you put these expensive Excellos in a busy spot. If Port Gardens is to get a loo, then make it a simple, low tech one.

    Bruce and maybe even the Cairns Post is going to get stuck into the toilet issue again, so either change , lighten up, or bunker down and cop the heat. The loo with a queue went dud again today.
    Excello is writing a letter to the Gazette, explaining (and hopefully apologising) stating they will be replacing the dud electrics in the first model, and is flying in a guy from NZ to fix it.

    I say we return the next, 12 week-away, Exceloo, and locate it on the 3m by 6m lawn facing Carson's statue, an good location.

    If there is but one loo in Macrossan, those supporting the single loo idea will be forever on the defence, for the failure to keep up with demand. Shit happens. Daily.

    I urge everyone to reconsider the last week's vote to put a flash loo at Port Gardens, where it is only needed at about a tenth of the demand in Macrossan St.

    So yes, we should get a loo to Port Gardens, but please, be real, be practical, and put the other Exceloo in Macrossan.

    For those that have never seen a queue at the Coles shopping centre, do you shop in Port in the busy season every day, or not?

    For those who sneak into the pubs for a piss, spare a though for mums with young kids who don't want to take a pram into the pub. And it ain't a pubs job to be a public toilet provider.

    How many years is the Macrossan loo debacle going to continue? As for the stupidity of putting a toilet in Daintree with 7 pans, when it is about 400m from the ferry toilet that already exists, and to then site it in contravention of our own river setbacks, well, the project is well and truly set back now.

    Don't leave the community thinking Douglas Council is incapable of making the most simple of decisions...mind you, on the evidence in the case of the loo with a view, and the loo with a queue is all there is to go on, for the community to make judgement, then no wonder the Cairns alternative is beckoning.

    Rod Davis

The Council decision this morning, ousted Councillor Davis from the meet for a "Breach of the Code of Conduct" by the use of the words "Shit Happens".

Then another allegation against Davis surfaced where Councillor Egan was the sole accuser and the sole witness to a private argument between himself and Egan.

This was when the two got into a private heated conversation, and Egan then sought to embark of a Code breach against Davis.

Egan effectively swapped hat as accuser to become judge and had little trouble getting support to have Councillor Davis removed from February's Council meeting as well. This cleared the way to insure the attempted career execution of David Carey went ahead without impediment.

Davis was refused any say in his defence on the ‘shit happens’ comment to today's Council meeting.

At least $50,000 has been spent by Douglas Shire Council investigating, among other things, the ‘shit happens’ wording. They dropped the case then Acting CEO, Julia Leu hired another less senior arbiter, who, for $600, found Davis guilty.

Council staff weighed in, insuring other code breeches against Bill Bellero did not get light of day, and competing Council candidate, Julia Leu, instead of stepping down, remained in her CEO chair.

It's probably inappropriate that Mayor Berwick should allow Leu to remain in her capacity at this meeting as Acting CEO, when she has already announced her intention to stand for the Council election as a candidate for Division 10. It would be deemed a conflict of interest to be party to a decision against a competing Council candidate.

Lue ordered Davis to not take photos of the proceedings or he would have to leave the Council meeting room. She denied any staff involvement in arranging Code of Conduct investigation reports to being tabled in a way to go against Davis.

There are two reports, as above, about Davis’ ‘shit happens’ comment. The reports both disagree, but today the only report that counted, was the cheaper $600 one, which damned Davis for making the comment.

Lue also denied that staff had not acted improperly in removing Bill Bellero from the meeting, after staff realised he had not actually been formally forgiven of his last Code of Conduct breach.

This absurdity, now with several private investigators, dirt files, and a range of kangaroo court jurists have cost the community well over $100,000.

The CEO has not tabled the full costs as requested by Councillor Davis.

It's now time for the Minister to dissolve the Douglas Shire Council immediately.

Police were sent away when protesters gave up in disgust, as the remaining Councillors re-arranged the agenda to deter any more protest sit-ins.

David Carey and Rod Davis are powerless to stop this farce. However, the story itself gives some clarity as to why the people of Douglas should be nothing short of disgusted at the behaviour of some councillors.

It also leaves some grave questions about the actions of staff framing such a kangaroo court.

A day of long knives indeed.


Anonymous said...

Kinda makes one realize the value of having a strong and powerful leader with a background of managed discipline, doesn't it.
In comparison with Douglas and Johnstone Shires, Cairns City Council stands out as a well lit beacon giving it's ratepayers and citizens guidance and sound management over the last 8 years.
And to think some want to throw this all away ... my god.

Anonymous said...

wot bothers me is that you seem to imply that the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission is a creditable and reliable body. My view is if the CMC makes a finding then often this means the opposite is true. As said I cannot see how CMC has any credability at all. Anyway great post and great reading.

Anonymous said...

wot is great about this blog it that it has breaking news, news ahead of other local media, this story will be on local radio and tv tomorrow. I've never really come across a blog that is also its own news gathering and reporting service. Is good cos their is scant local media in Cairns.

Anonymous said...

I was once reported for breaching "Code of Conduct" in the Commonwealth Public Service for using the word "fecund" (which means fertile). Hehehe. It took quite some time, one of the Managers becoming involved, and my having to find a dictionary to point out the offending word, and supply a witness who had heard me use the word. My sentence: "The mahogany glider is not the most fecund animal...." The young female who lodged the complaint alleging breach of "Code of Conduct" then tried to justify the complaint as, ""Oh, it was the WAY it was said."
I then told her she was "an imbecilic fuckwit with the intelligence of an ossified pea" and I really found myself receiving a breach of "Code of Conduct." I laughed. Hahahahahah.
Where the hell do these fuckwits come from?

portmultimedia said...

You have to laugh really, a local government election looming, lots of new candidates appearing and to borrow a delightful phase from an above fellow blogger – Not a decent fecund comment amongst them. I live in the future Division 10 precinct and while I am prepared to say we are a passionate bunch politically, as a people we are almost an uncanny collage of simple unabashed people and eccentric egoists from all walks of life.

Ok, So we didn’t have the most productive Council this term, big deal, we as local residents would have dealt with that next time around ourselves but no, we have gone from being a small very financially viable shire in charge of our own destiny (including the right to squabble) to nothing more than a passenger on the Queen Mary which has all the bells and whistles of a show ride but with the manoeuvrability of an ice-berg.

What ever happened to good local governance? If Factman thinks his side are a model of good local governance well I need to strongly imply he or she has a chronic cranial-rectal inversion. The Byrne “Untie” Party has a habit of taking local working communities and setting them adrift on the high seas only to be left at the mercy of the white-shoe pirates.

It makes one want to run for Division 10 out of principle!