Secret agenda: Behind closed doors

Source The Age

Melbourne City Council is making too many decisions without the glare of public scrutiny, according to a former lord mayor.

The agenda for next Tuesday’s council meeting lists seven items for discussion as ”confidential” with only one item disclosed to the public.

Former lord mayor Kevin Chamberlin said the council, in charge of an annual budget worth hundreds of millions of dollars, was operating too much in secrecy.

”When you look at a council meeting agenda you get the distinct impression the real business is done behind closed doors,” Mr Chamberlin said.

The closed shop at Tuesday’s council meeting comes after The Age reported in May the lord mayor was conducting ”councillor-only meetings” that did not require minutes to be taken or councillors to declare a conflict of interest because no council staff were present.

Cr Carl Jetter, who said he represented business interests in the council, said it was a long-standing convention for the past three to four terms to have more internal discussions on operations.

”It’s not for the public or ratepayers to know,” Cr Jetter said.

But lord mayor Robert Doyle said the council was more transparent than State Parliament – despite debates in Parliament being open to the public.

”Tuesday’s meeting agenda with so many confidential items is unusual,” Cr Doyle said.

”All nine councillors, regardless of how long they have been a councillor, are free to bring up discussions to question the confidential nature of matters.”

City of Melbourne chief executive Dr Kathy Alexander said in a prepared statement: ”The City of Melbourne understands the importance of being open and transparent with its ratepayers, however there are some specific matters as outlined in the Local Government Act that cannot be discussed in open council.”