Friday 29 May 2009

Ethics and conduct of a Councillor

Former Mulgrave Shire Councillor Ross Parisi, is a vocal advocate for strong accountable local government, having dedicated many years to serving his community in public office.

In light of the recent revelations about the questionable behaviour of Cairns Regional Councillor Alan Blake, and the exposure of Councillors and senior staff in the Cash for Comments debacle, Ross Parisi says that the system must not be abused by capricious individuals with their own personal agendas.


It is almost 15 months since the Council election. From time to time I am asked what my views are on the Cairns Regional Council’s governance. I, like so many other interested observers, am becoming increasingly concerned and bewildered by the dysfunctional appearance that is becoming evident.

For the purposes of this critique, I would like to quote a relevant section pertaining to the Model Code of Conduct for Councillor, adopted by Cairns Regional Council on the 3rd April 2008:-

    - It is vital that the public has confidence in a local government’s ability to ensure the good rule and government of its area,

    - Councillors must conduct themselves in a way that promotes and maintains the public’s trust and confidence in the local government and the good rule and government of its area.

It is obvious that the above articles are not being adhered to by at least some of the Councillors who with their experience should know better. The "Cash for Comment" controversy is but one example of the dysfunction that permeates from the Cairns Regional Council chambers.

The democratic process by its very nature, is a fragile institution and as such must not be abused by capricious individuals with their own personal agendas, otherwise the process will spiral into chaos. All self-interest including party political beliefs should play no part in the decision making process and need to be left outside of the Council Chambers.

Machiavellian principles should play no part in the governance of Cairns, a city that is in financial peril due to the Global Financial meltdown. That is not to say that debate should not take place. Indeed debate is an essential ingredient in any healthy democracy. What is toxic though is the snipping, undermining and malicious conduct of those that relish such disorderly conduct.

Cairns at this moment in time, needs stability and strong leadership, if not a Council united in purpose and goodwill with a set of values that aspire confidence and trust.

Proper deliberations cannot take place in an atmosphere where the Mayor and Councillors need to watch their back in fear. Invariably decisions arrived in circumstances as such are poor ones with the ratepayers and residents bearing the burden of irresponsibility.

For the sake of good governance, it is high time that all Councillors and staff to put their personal agendas aside and work together for the common good.

Perhaps it is time for the Minister for Local Government to ask for a please explain.


Tony Hillier said...

And so say all of us! Well put, Ross.

The Headless Horseman said...

I would like to express my appreciation for Ross Parisi's articulate and thoughtful contribution to the Cash for Comment discussion.
The question of relationships between elected councillors and senior council staff is a vexed one.
Everybody has a right to form friendships with anyone they please.
But in the context of council business where confidentialities are important, so are perceptions.
Alan Blake and Kerie Hull have both been found out as trying to set up the Mayor for public embarrassment. We can only conjecture at this stage what role they each played. While Blake is only playing politics, Hull's crime is her disloyalty to the Mayor and ultmately to the council, an ironic position for a communications officer supposedly promoting the council's activities.
Clearly, their meetings since the scandal broke should not have occurred.
There is no way in the world anybody can believe they have not discussed the Cash for Comment scandal. What we don't know is the extent of their discussions. The public has every right to know what there discussions were about.
And I come back to previous bloggers' comments about Noel Briggs, Sno Bonneau and Margaret Cochrane and the extent of their involvement and knowledge of "Cash for Comment" and how long they knew about it before it hit the media.
Ross is right to demand our councillors behave themselves and work together for the future of Cairns. We mug voters expect them to work together.
Playing politics is well and good, but poor Alan has to wake up to the fact that Val Schier is Mayor for another three years. Does Alan really have so much hatred and contempt within him to sustain his relentless anti-Val campaign? If he does, that says more about him than it does about Val.
PS: Mike, would like to hear more from Ross in Cairnsblog. He has a depth of knowledge of history and politics and the skill of a master wordsmith to give us some instructive and edifying comment.

Alison Alloway said...

You encapsulated the issues there very well, Ross, as per usual.
"nocturnal" in another posting has also made an effort to understand the ethical and democratic conflicts involved.
I see it as the inevitable conflict between democractic processes and the corporate culture which eschews those processes.

Noel Briggs, for example, has taken it upon himself to assume full and total responsibility for a publicly funded report. Doubtless, he doesn't understand this is a corruption of democracy.

This type of conflict isn't just
occurring in the CRC, it is occurring at a frightening pace wherever corporatisation is changing not only business paradigms, but also human values.

"Cash for Comment" has indeed placed some individuals and their lack of ethics and principles under public scrutiny. A corporate culture rewards such behaviour. A democratic one does not.

I will be therefore, VERY interested to see what eventuates from all of this.

Alison Alloway said...

Thanks to Noj Nedlaw who has provided Section 1131 of the Local Government Act of 1993 (which CORPORATISED local Government.)
Section 1131 describes the duties and responsibilities of a CEO.
It is worth reading through to get an understanding of the frightening powers of a CEO.

William F of Woree said...

Ross, when are you going to run for office again, huh???!

Ross Parisi said...

If I may take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to the contributors that made comment on my Article.

Your comments are heartening and noted.

I owe a tremendous amount of appreciation and favour to the Community that gave me so much pride during my tenure as a Councillor. The little I do now is always a pleasure.


Lillian at Yorkeys said...

I still reckon with Briggs' 'friendship' with Kerrie Hull, he may be implicated in the whole collusion, & that's why he's trying to save his sorry arse.
We, as ratepaying citizens, demand transparency. Over to you Val .... ? ? ?