The Council Voice: Cross Examination of Witnesses

Last Tuesdays “Future Melbourne” All up council meeting was interesting to say the least, if not worthy of an event in Melbourne’s Comedy Show.

Cr Mayne dominated procedures and you would think he was the shows chairman.  At one stage in proceedings Cr Mayne referred to submitters  as Witnesses.  Clearly Councillor Mayne was at ease in the theatrics of the meeting even if he was confused by the fact that it was not a court of law.

Like that of  ballet performance each Councillor has their chance to shine on centre stage, although some shone more than others as  each Councillor took over the role of chairman depending on what topic was under consideration.  The Council spent an in-ordinate amount of time discussing various planning permits that managed to get referred to the Council  meeting for consideration only be deferred to next weeks meeting.

Councillor Mayne has clearly embarked on a policy and tactic of endorsing Staff recommendations this avoiding any changes or reflections of any real merit.  (It pas dividends at a later stage to keep the administration on side you never know when you may need a favour in exchange) Never the less Stephen Mayne gave a convincing performance and maintained eye contact and focus at all time showing confidence if not substance.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle was the only other player that demonstrated that experience counts when it comes to meeting etiquette and style.  One could not help but like his style.

There was an interesting movement, during the later stages of the meeting when Robert Doyle and Beverly Pinder-Mortium had left the meeting early,  when the numbers in the chamber were equally divided 4 for and 4 against and meeting had to rely on the casting vote of whoever was chairman at the time. Traditionally a casting vote should be cast to maintain the status quo or if there is none to the negative.   In any event a resolution of the committee that does not command the support of an absolute majority of the elected Council (6) the vote is referred to the full Council meeting for consideration.  In this tie breaker Cr Ong correctly ruled against a proposed amendment but then cast his deciding vote as chairman by ruling in favour of the substantive motion put forward by Cr Mayne.

Whilst the procedures of the Council may satisfy those who have an interest in the topics that have been placed on the agenda, and those who were granted the opportunity to have their three minutes presentation followed by a cross examination by Stephen Mayne,  what concerned me more was what was not on the agenda or listed in the Council papers.

Most issues are decided now-a-days by delegation, no one knows what decision are made and by who. Decisions are made behind closed doors  hidden form the public’s view. There is no `register of delegations and there is no central reporting of what decisions have been made in the name of the Council.  I tried to raise this issue at the end of the meeting but the Councillors sat there with be wielded faces not knowing what to do.  If there is no recommendation, script auto queue  before them they  dumfounded.

It would be good governance for the Council to at least review a list of delegations and request the publication of any decision made under delegation to be listed on the Council web site and a summary presented at Council’s Future Melbourne meetings.

It would be good if Council meeting could be web cast, if not informative it is at least entertaining and admission if free.

The Council Voice: Cross Examination of Witnesses

Last Tuesdays “Future Melbourne” All up council meeting was interesting to say the least, if not worthy of an event in Melbourne’s Comedy Show.

Cr Mayne dominated procedures and you would think he was the shows chairman.  At one stage in proceedings Cr Mayne referred to submitters  as Witnesses.  Clearly Councillor Mayne was at ease in the theatrics of the meeting even if he was confused by the fact that it was not a court of law.

Like that of  ballet performance each Councillor has their chance to shine on centre stage, although some shone more than others as  each Councillor took over the role of chairman depending on what topic was under consideration.  The Council spent an in-ordinate amount of time discussing various planning permits that managed to get referred to the Council  meeting for consideration only be deferred to next weeks meeting.

Councillor Mayne has clearly embarked on a policy and tactic of endorsing Staff recommendations this avoiding any changes or reflections of any real merit.  (It pas dividends at a later stage to keep the administration on side you never know when you may need a favour in exchange) Never the less Stephen Mayne gave a convincing performance and maintained eye contact and focus at all time showing confidence if not substance.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle was the only other player that demonstrated that experience counts when it comes to meeting etiquette and style.  One could not help but like his style.

There was an interesting movement, during the later stages of the meeting when Robert Doyle and Beverly Pinder-Mortium had left the meeting early,  when the numbers in the chamber were equally divided 4 for and 4 against and meeting had to rely on the casting vote of whoever was chairman at the time. Traditionally a casting vote should be cast to maintain the status quo or if there is none to the negative.   In any event a resolution of the committee that does not command the support of an absolute majority of the elected Council (6) the vote is referred to the full Council meeting for consideration.  In this tie breaker Cr Ong correctly ruled against a proposed amendment but then cast his deciding vote as chairman by ruling in favour of the substantive motion put forward by Cr Mayne.

Whilst the procedures of the Council may satisfy those who have an interest in the topics that have been placed on the agenda, and those who were granted the opportunity to have their three minutes presentation followed by a cross examination by Stephen Mayne,  what concerned me more was what was not on the agenda or listed in the Council papers.

Most issues are decided now-a-days by delegation, no one knows what decision are made and by who. Decisions are made behind closed doors  hidden form the public’s view. There is no `register of delegations and there is no central reporting of what decisions have been made in the name of the Council.  I tried to raise this issue at the end of the meeting but the Councillors sat there with be wielded faces not knowing what to do.  If there is no recommendation, script auto queue  before them they  dumfounded.

It would be good governance for the Council to at least review a list of delegations and request the publication of any decision made under delegation to be listed on the Council web site and a summary presented at Council’s Future Melbourne meetings.

It would be good if Council meeting could be web cast, if not informative it is at least entertaining and admission if free.

Payback: Council Credit on the line

Whilst embattled MP Craig Thomson faces allegations and charges for alleged misuse of Union funds arising from the Fair work Australia, Melbourne’s Lord Mayor and Senior Staff continue to ring up charges on their Council supplied Corporate Credit Card.  Members of the Council’s Governance team are constantly having to chase up on the Lord Mayor and staff to pay back money that has been accredited to the Council’s account. 

In Linda Weathersons  account these expenses do not show up on the Council expense statements as they have not been acquitted. 

Dodgy accounting aside, the fact is the use of the corporate card for personal expenses should not be allowed,  even just a short term personal loan or a question of convenience. 

Hopefully the media will FOI the Council for the copy of all staff’s credit card statements

The Council’s published expense statements  no longer show expenses related to overseas and interstate communication or travel. They’re instead hidden away in the consolidated Travel register.

Does that mean the Council is not reimbursing out of pocket expenses occurred whilst on junkets overseas and instead they are being paid an illegal  additional allowance, above and beyond the allowances set out under the Local Government Act?

The findings of the Thomson case  will have a far reaching effect well and beyond the confines of Federal Politics.

Payback: Council Credit on the line

Whilst embattled MP Craig Thomson faces allegations and charges for alleged misuse of Union funds arising from the Fair work Australia, Melbourne’s Lord Mayor and Senior Staff continue to ring up charges on their Council supplied Corporate Credit Card.  Members of the Council’s Governance team are constantly having to chase up on the Lord Mayor and staff to pay back money that has been accredited to the Council’s account. 

In Linda Weathersons  account these expenses do not show up on the Council expense statements as they have not been acquitted. 

Dodgy accounting aside, the fact is the use of the corporate card for personal expenses should not be allowed,  even just a short term personal loan or a question of convenience. 

Hopefully the media will FOI the Council for the copy of all staff’s credit card statements

The Council’s published expense statements  no longer show expenses related to overseas and interstate communication or travel. They’re instead hidden away in the consolidated Travel register.

Does that mean the Council is not reimbursing out of pocket expenses occurred whilst on junkets overseas and instead they are being paid an illegal  additional allowance, above and beyond the allowances set out under the Local Government Act?

The findings of the Thomson case  will have a far reaching effect well and beyond the confines of Federal Politics.