Wednesday 15 April 2009

No Conduct reports presented to Councillors

The Code of Conduct investigation into Councillor Diane Forsyth amounts to nothing more than a politically motivated pre-determined witch-hunt.

Cairns Regional Council's Noel Briggs, not given any Councillors a copy of the private commissioned reports, that effectively indites Councillor Diane Forsyth for today's Code of Conduct investigation hearing at the Finance and Administration Committee today at 10am.

The two separate Reports, commission by the CEO have not been shown to or considered by Councillors. Surely it's their job just have this vital information, rather than to rubber-stamp a CEO own decisions.

The Code of Conduct Investigation on today's agenda has the CEO's recommendation, but no report at all, or any discussion of the Code of Conduct, or any other material other than the CEO’s opinion, about what Councillors ought consider, or how they might act.

Division 5 Councillor Robert Pyne, confirmed with CairnsBlog that he has not been sent or shown a copy of the investigators report.

Councillors are be treated with total ignorance and are deliberately been kept away from any documents or objective investigation. The truth is, there has been none.

This is Cairns Regional Council’s first ever consideration of a minor breach of the Code of Conduct. Yet Councillors are being asked to make a decision without seeing any report, setting out the details of what happened on the day, and what it is alleged this means for Cr Diane Forsyth and the Code of Conduct. This is any extraordinary situation, and treats all Councillors, asked to vote on such a matter, with utmost disrespect.

Let's see if any of the mainstream media today report this most mitigating fact. What a preposterous proposal to require Councillors to make a decision with no facts or investigation presented to them. I hope that the intelligent Councillors out there - of which there are a few, don't act like sheep, but demand such reports be presented to the Open Meeting, as required by law.

I saw the the first report, that was commissioned by CEO Briggs. It was so badly constructed, with defamatory material, bias, factual error, that it had to be discarded altogether. It is intended to never see the light of day, as it would embarrass this Council and it's CEO. However, I will consider releasing this on CairnsBlog, so everyone can see the quality of work that our Council's CEO is willing to allow as 'persuasive evidence.'

Consider this: A first flawed report was ditched. So another one was commissioned, to draw the same conclusion, yet our local law enforcers, our Councillors, have not been allowed to see either.

The second report has been hidden from any scrutiny. CEO Noel Briggs wants only his précis to be the basis for Councillors' decision. And his decision alone. His précis sets out two culpable circumstances for Di Forsyth which are said to amount to a minor breach.

The CEO says those circumstances are:

  • “The likely held perception that Councillor Forsyth climbed upon the building roof in her official capacity, that perception supported by her placard advising she was “representing” 11,000 people and Councillor Forsyth used her position as Councillor to deliberately bring about greater publicity for the campaign”.

'The likely held perception' is not a fact, or an objective circumstance, or a reason for anything. It is an opinion. Noel Briggs is presenting it as a fact to Councillors, while denying them the opportunity to read the report from any 'investigator' containing whatever objective information is available.

In fact, community Yacht Club protester, Sharon Powell, made the sign 'I’m representing 11,000 people'. Sharon Powell was arrested four days before Cr Diane Forsyth, and footage of her and the sign being arrested and removed from the Cairns Yacht Club was broadcast by Channel 7 news. Does this constitute a breach of the CRC’s Code of Conduct?

The fact is that Councillor Forsyth is a citizen, as well as a Councillor. It was as a citizen that Forsyth undertook civil disobedience, as is her right to do.

The CEO's finding, not that of any elected Councillor, is based on Section Standards of Personal Behaviour in that:

  • “Councillors must conduct themselves in a manner which will maintain and strengthen the public’s trust and confidence in the integrity of the Council, ensuring that their actions do not detract from the integrity of the Council and avoiding any action which may diminish its standing, authority or dignity”.

So what can we summarise about this? That the CEO, and the CEO alone is the judge and jury in this whole affair.

The fact is, that the CEO called a press conference just two hours after the Councillor climbed on the roof of the Yacht Club in her protest action. The media alert (I used to get them in those days), said that the Mayor and the CEO would be there to answer questions and make a statement about the Councillor's actions. The Mayor never showed. It was a Clayton's Press Conference. The CEO announced nothing. He said no complaints were received at that point/ "However if a compliant is received, it will be actioned upon," Noel Briggs said.

This was simply an invitation for a compliant. Days later, sure enough, two complaints magically came forward, both from Councillor Forsyth's political opponents. Their complaint was flimsy and negligible, at best.

Cairns Regional Council needs to be mindful that it doesn’t allow improper procedures, initiated by a clearly biased CEO, to infringe upon basic democratic rights.

Over recent months, I've highlighted many incidents where the CEO seems to command the public debate on Councillor issues. There is something rather repugnant about this. I want my Councillors to lead debate, not a highly-paid employee of Council, that is meant to be taking orders from the elected representatives.

Get it through your head Noel: you are the one who doesn’t like what Diane did. The residents and voters of Cairns genuinely appreciate her for it. We also demand that Councillors run the Council, not Council staff.


Qwickie's Mum said...

So if you've got the first report, Michael, why not post it?

We all KNOW why, Michael. Blowhard.

Anonymous said...
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Quickie said...

Since when was a successful deliberatle unlawful trespass to be held as a shining example of Councillor behaviour?

The demolition contractor, carrying out his lawful duties, was repeatedly held up, at great cost to himself, from completing the task. No wonder he complained.

And who is responsible for the administration of this trespass law, and who polices it?

It is our friends in Brisbane, the Queensland Labor Party.

So without the arrest, this matter would have never happened.

Council's role is now a matter of "due process", acting on legitimate complaints.

Your one-eyed blog is getting a bit cock-eyed, Michael.

Cr Diane Forsyth said...

Councillors were given a copy of the 2nd report at a meeting yesterday afternoon, probably as a result of Bryan's highlighting the issue in an email to all councillors.

Cheers Di