Decisions by Proxy: Councillor Forums under review for non compliance of s89 of the ACT

A complaint has been forward to the Victorian Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate requesting that the State Government investigate the management and administration of the City of Melbourne Councillor Forums and its compliance with section 89 of the Victorian Local Government Act 1989 (The Act)

Section 89 of the Local Government Act provides for the public right to attend all council meetings with the exception when matters of confidentiality are discussed. 

The City of Melbourne considers a number of issues that effect Council policy and its administration at the Council Forums which are held in closed session. 

On November 27, 2012 the City of Melbourne held a Councillor Forum in which a number of issues of Council policy and administration were discussed.  This meeting was closed to the public and its agenda and reports were not published.

Decision by Proxy

The City of Melbourne falsely claim that because “they do not make decisions” at the Councillor Forums they do not fall under the provisions of section 89 of the Act. The Council administration acts under delegations on the recommendations and discussions arising at the Councillors’ forum.  This is akin to decisions by proxy.

The City of Melbourne publishes a record of the meeting,  pursuant to the Local Government regulations, weeks after the event. However the agenda of the Councillor Forums are not published prior to the meetings and members of the public are denied access to detailed information, reports or input into the deliberations and discussions of the Councillors.  Members of the pubic wishing to gain access to information and reports presented at the Councillor forums  need to make an application under the provisions an FOI legislation which is a further abuse of process.

Denial of natural justice.  

Many of the issues raised and discussed in closed session at Councillor Forums effect public policy and as they are not open to the public deny members of the public the right to observe, monitor  and/or provide input into the decisions of Council.  Detailed reports. minutes and discussion papers presented to at the Councillor Forums  are not published or made available to the public via the Council Web site.

One member of the public said “they had requested copies of the reports being presented to Council but were denied access“.  The Council Officer concerned said “that this is not the way we do business“. Matters under consideration are no longer discussed in open public forums but are decided behind closed doors.

The newly elected Council has failed to act or question the legality of the Councils actions.

Record of Delegated Authority

There is no public record or registry of decisions made under delegation.

It is difficult or impossible to determine under what authority the administration has in setting public policy or matters contained under Council Local Laws

Avoidance of compliance

The conduct of the City of Melbourne Councillor is a deliberate attempt to avoid the provisions of section 89 of the Act and to deny members of the public the right to attend and observe Council meetings.

Public Confidence

This seriously undermines public confidence in the administration of the Council and could lead to corruption as a result of the lack of transparency and accountability

Then and Now: Doyle backs down from Legal Challenge: Decisions by Proxy

Robert Doyle on the run backs down on legal challenge of integrity Then … and Now

Councillors Richard Forster, Rohan Leppert and Stephen Mayne have already reneged on their commitment to Open and Transparent Government


Richard Foster said “he also wanted to increase the public’s perception of the council’s integrity by ending the policy of closing council meetings

 “Doing nothing is not an option“.- Richard Foster “Our Melbourne” @Richo_Foster That is until he was elected. Policy and commitment for Open and transparency out the window. 

Within less than 2 months of being elected @Richo_Foster continued practice of secret meetings behind closed doors locking out the public .

Greens’ Rohan Leppert “there were issues of transparency that needed to be addressed“. Leppert, like that of his predecessor Greens Councillor  Fraser Bindley before him, also supported closed meetings subverting s89 LGA

Self proclaimed “Transparency advocate” and new councillor Stephen Mayne @MayneReport has also continued the practice of secret meetings subverting s89 of the LGA

 
On November 27 The City Council held a “Decision by Proxy” Councillor Forum meeting locking out the public and community.  No reports and no minutes, No accountability.  No Transparency. Policy on the run hidden from public view. 

  • Open and transparent systems permit everyone to make informed choices, and give everyone access to information in an easily understood format

    Accountability is acting responsibly and being answerable for actions taken

    A lack of openness, transparency and insufficient accountability creates the conditions in which corruption flourishes

    The Internet is the ideal medium for cost effective delivery of information maintaining open and transparent government (eGovernance)

       

     

Section 89 Victorian Local Government Act 1989

Meetings to be open to the public
  • 89. Meetings to be open to the public

    (1) Unless subsection (2) applies, any meeting of a Council or a special
    committee must be open to members of the public.

    (2) A Council or special committee may resolve that the meeting be closed to
    members of the public if the meeting is discussing any of the following-

    (a) personnel matters;

    (b) the personal hardship of any resident or ratepayer;

    (c) industrial matters;

    (d) contractual matters;

    (e) proposed developments;

    (f) legal advice;

    (g) matters affecting the security of Council property;

    (h) any other matter which the Council or special committee considers
    would prejudice the Council or any person;

    (i) a resolution to close the meeting to members of the public.

    (3) If a Council or special committee resolves to close a meeting to members
    of the public the reason must be recorded in the minutes of the meeting.

    (4) Unless subsection (4A) applies, a Council must at least 7 days before the
    holding of-

    (a) an ordinary council meeting; or

    (b) a special council meeting; or

    (c) a meeting of a special committee comprised solely of Councillors-

    give public notice of the meeting.

    (4A) If urgent or extraordinary circumstances prevent a Council from complying
    with subsection (4), the Council must-

    (a) give such public notice as is practicable; and

    (b) specify the urgent or extraordinary circumstances which prevented the
    Council from complying with subsection (4) in the minutes.

    (5) The Chairperson of a special committee that is not comprised solely of
    Councillors must provide reasonable notice to the public of meetings of the
    special committee.

       

Big Fish Seeking a Bigger Pond

Updated:

Maverick Councillor Steven Mayne in his first motion before the Council calling on the City of Melbourne subscribe to the Municipal Association of Victoria and that he be appointed the Council’s representative to the association.  A move that will costs Ratepayers in excess of $33,169. (Money that was not included in the 2012-2013 City Budget and the recommendation even bypassed Council’s Finance Committee

Councillor Mayne has been given chair of governance and finance and even more disturbing Greens Councillor Rohan Leppert Deputy Chair.  

Carlton ALP member, Cr Richard Foster was denied an economic portfolio and has been sidelined by being allocated Transport and People City. 

In another hidden appointment Greens Councillor Cathy Oake was reappointed as the Council’s nominee to International Council for Local Environment Initiatives (ICLEI) and it’s Oceania Regional Executive Committee .  What is of greater concern is that the City of Melbourne is picking up Councillor Oake’s expenses.  The costs include numerous international trips and junkets to attend ICLEI’s executive meetings – each flight generating enough green house gases generated by a family in year. Why they can not just telecommute is any ones guess, ICELI is more about junkets and marketing than the environment. The Enviro Fest Travel set.

There are ongoing concerns and questions asked as to why the Council is picking up the tab for a third party organisations executive costs and why these costs are not being paid for by the association itself.    Similar concerns were raised with expenses related to former Green Crs David Risstrom and Fraser Brindley. No doubts this is part of the Council’s inducement and payouts of Councillor appointments.  You scratch my back and I will scratch yours.

A tell-tale sign of the Greens true committement towards the environment is the failure of the Greens to take on Waste Management in the City.  Newly elected Greens Counicllor Rohan Leppert prefering instead to chair the socialite portfolio of Arts and Culture. Waste Management and the Environment come a distant second on the Greens portfolio list unless there is a junket or two.

The Council’s all-up “Future Melbourne” committee structure is designed to distract councillors from the real game and to lock out community representation. Smoke and Mirrors.  Most decisions are  held behind closed doors and made under “delegation”. 

There is no clear structure or reporting on what decisions have been  made in the name of the council.  There is no published public register of delegations or even the need to report on decisions made under delegations, all of which should be readily available on the council’s web site.

The newly elected Council failed to review the delegation lists. If the public don’t know what delegations are in place what confidence can we have that the elected Council knows what decisions have been delegated.  The signing of a blank check with little to no accountability.

Council has made a small micro step towards Council becoming more open to the public.  Meetings will now commence at 5:30PM not 5:00PM as was previously the case.  This still locks out most community input. 

The holding of council meetings on Tuesdays means they miss the local media deadlines and there still is no single local media outlet that covers the entire City.  South of the Yarra is ignored and forgotten as are most of the local precincts.

The City Council made no effort towards  establishing net-casting of Council meetings, something that in today’s technological world should be already in place by now. When it comes to information about governance the Council’s web site has little to offer is is under utilised. Teh guiding principle is do as little as possible and nmo more then is required under legilsation

The published Councillor expense statements do not show the full picture with many costs, payments and benefits afforded Councillors hidden from public view. 

Our City council will go to any extent to avoid disclosure and accountability. Nothing has changed and the newly elected council looks set to maintain the established tradition. Maybe Stephen Mayne will address this issue but I would not be holding my breath.  I doubt open and transparency is on his agenda.

Big Fish Seeking a Bigger Pond

Updated:

Maverick Councillor Steven Mayne in his first motion before the Council calling on the City of Melbourne subscribe to the Municipal Association of Victoria and that he be appointed the Council’s representative to the association.  A move that will costs Ratepayers in excess of $33,169. (Money that was not included in the 2012-2013 City Budget and the recommendation even bypassed Council’s Finance Committee

Councillor Mayne has been given chair of governance and finance and even more disturbing Greens Councillor Rohan Leppert Deputy Chair.  

Carlton ALP member, Cr Richard Foster was denied an economic portfolio and has been sidelined by being allocated Transport and People City. 

In another hidden appointment Greens Councillor Cathy Oake was reappointed as the Council’s nominee to International Council for Local Environment Initiatives (ICLEI) and it’s Oceania Regional Executive Committee .  What is of greater concern is that the City of Melbourne is picking up Councillor Oake’s expenses.  The costs include numerous international trips and junkets to attend ICLEI’s executive meetings – each flight generating enough green house gases generated by a family in year. Why they can not just telecommute is any ones guess, ICELI is more about junkets and marketing than the environment. The Enviro Fest Travel set.

There are ongoing concerns and questions asked as to why the Council is picking up the tab for a third party organisations executive costs and why these costs are not being paid for by the association itself.    Similar concerns were raised with expenses related to former Green Crs David Risstrom and Fraser Brindley. No doubts this is part of the Council’s inducement and payouts of Councillor appointments.  You scratch my back and I will scratch yours.

A tell-tale sign of the Greens true committement towards the environment is the failure of the Greens to take on Waste Management in the City.  Newly elected Greens Counicllor Rohan Leppert prefering instead to chair the socialite portfolio of Arts and Culture. Waste Management and the Environment come a distant second on the Greens portfolio list unless there is a junket or two.

The Council’s all-up “Future Melbourne” committee structure is designed to distract councillors from the real game and to lock out community representation. Smoke and Mirrors.  Most decisions are  held behind closed doors and made under “delegation”. 

There is no clear structure or reporting on what decisions have been  made in the name of the council.  There is no published public register of delegations or even the need to report on decisions made under delegations, all of which should be readily available on the council’s web site.

The newly elected Council failed to review the delegation lists. If the public don’t know what delegations are in place what confidence can we have that the elected Council knows what decisions have been delegated.  The signing of a blank check with little to no accountability.

Council has made a small micro step towards Council becoming more open to the public.  Meetings will now commence at 5:30PM not 5:00PM as was previously the case.  This still locks out most community input. 

The holding of council meetings on Tuesdays means they miss the local media deadlines and there still is no single local media outlet that covers the entire City.  South of the Yarra is ignored and forgotten as are most of the local precincts.

The City Council made no effort towards  establishing net-casting of Council meetings, something that in today’s technological world should be already in place by now. When it comes to information about governance the Council’s web site has little to offer is is under utilised. Teh guiding principle is do as little as possible and nmo more then is required under legilsation

The published Councillor expense statements do not show the full picture with many costs, payments and benefits afforded Councillors hidden from public view. 

Our City council will go to any extent to avoid disclosure and accountability. Nothing has changed and the newly elected council looks set to maintain the established tradition. Maybe Stephen Mayne will address this issue but I would not be holding my breath.  I doubt open and transparency is on his agenda.