Minutes of contention

CEO Stuart Wearne and Mayor Jim O'Neill.
CEO Stuart Wearne and Mayor Jim O'Neill.

The section of the minutes from the June 17 meeting related to a question about chief executive Stuart Wearne’s accrued leave.

In March, the Council decided to allow the financial implications of Mr Wearne’s accrued leave to be dealt with after amalgamation.

At the June meeting Mr Wearne said the new motion to produce the detail on the extent of the accrued leave could not be put until that earlier decision had been revoked. However, Cr Matthew Handcock continued to ask for the information.

Referring to the June 17 minutes at last week’s meeting, Cr Handcock said he believed a narrative style of note-taking was unnecessary and, since he did not believe the minutes were an accurate reflection of proceedings, were best deleted.

The Council accepts each meeting’s minutes at the following meeting, endorsing them as an accurate record.

However, Cr Handcock said it was acceptable to just list the decisions made by council, rather than the ‘he said, she said’ of events.

The portion of the minutes deleted included the note that the minutes secretary had left the meeting at 11pm.

The next minuted item was of the Mayor calling for an adjournment since the meeting no longer had a minute-taker.

The minutes then state that Cr Handcock requested the meeting continue.

‘Cr Handcock asked what that would achieve and stated he wished to continue with the meeting,’ the deleted section read.

The meeting was eventually adjourned and resumed the next evening, at which time council revoked the March decision and Mr Wearne’s accrued leave was produced but not minuted.

Mayor Jim O’Neill said the process of ratifying the minutes improved their accuracy.

‘Minutes and their confirmation from time to time are queried and rightly so if those present have some concerns. I think it is that process that contributes to their accuracy,’ he said.

‘In the case of the last meeting it was not the accuracy that was queried but the recording of some of the narrative.

‘From memory all councillors who were present at the meeting in June agreed to that deletion.’

Mr O’Neill said the Town had investigated recording all meetings in the past but decided not to proceed.

Mr Wearne said minutes secretary Janine May left the meeting because she was upset at the tone and nature of comments being directed at Mr Wearne and the executive manager of finance and administration by some elected members. After she left Mr Wearne took the minutes.

He said the accrued leave could not be provided as it was confidential.

Removed from the minutes of the June 17 meeting
– Cr Handcock raised a point of order that under Standing Order No 36: ‘Any Councillor may of right require the production of any of the documents of the Council relating to the question or matter under discussion.’
– Cr Handcock stated that he considered the information regarding the CEO’s leave liability could easily be obtained and requested the information be produced within the next 10 minutes.
– The CEO stated that regardless of the provisions of the (Local Government) Act, Cr Handcock’s request that the information be produced in the next 10 minutes was unreasonable and could not be agreed to.
– The CEO further noted his (confidential) written advice to elected members that a revocation motion was necessary, given Council’s previous decision on the matter.
– Secretary left the meeting at 11pm
– The Mayor noted that there was now no minute taker and he wished to adjourn the meeting until tomorrow evening.
– Cr Handcock asked what that would achieve and stated he wished to continue with the meeting. Cr Handcock then made a remark about the ‘tail wagging the dog’ and repeated the directive that the information be produced.
– The CEO stated that if that remark was referring to himself, he considered that to be a breach of the Rules of Conduct Regulations which Cr Handcock had ‘sworn to uphold.’
– Meeting adjourned at 11.07pm