Above: David and Bess Price, far left, in the public gallery last night.
By KIERAN FINNANE
Updated 25 June 2019, 10.12am (minor edits) and 2.09pm (information about a proposed new complaints process).
Councillor Jacinta Price and her parents do not accept the findings of the disciplinary committee on the Code of Conduct complaints they made about Crs Jimmy Cocking and Catherine Satour.
The committee– whose membership is unknown to the public and whose examination of the issues was entirely behind closed doors – found the complaints variously frivolous, vexatious or misleading.
Crs Cocking and Satour have asked for an apology but it’s clear they won’t be getting one.
David and Bess Price were in the public gallery last night to hear their daughter’s denunciation of the findings and the process.
Cr Price invited councillors to consider whether they had a conflict of interest before she began her long statement. Apparently none did as none left the chamber and, after all, they were not being asked to vote about anything.
She warned that she would be alleging that councillors had met with Ministers Gerry McCarthy and Dale Wakefield to discuss the issues, and also that councillors had used the chamber to “stage walk-offs”.
She would also be “highlighting” the Arrernte and Central Australian Aboriginal Strong Women’s Group which, she suggested, Cr Satour is part of.
Mayor Damien Ryan welcomed her to continue “as others have”, referring to Crs Cocking and Satour’s statements made in the chamber on the findings of the process.
Cr Price said she was exercising her “right of reply” to statements made in her absence. Her priority was for elected members to get on with their work; it was never her intention to “drag the entire community” into the process. As other elected members had made the issues public she would address them also.
She and her parents had exercised their rights to make the complaints. They did not appeal the findings because they have “lost faith in the system”.
Crs Satour and Cocking had said the claims had been proved frivolous, vexatious and unsubstantiated, she said. As the committee is “not bound by rules of evidence”, she and her parents reject the use of the word “proved”.
She said the disciplinary committee is expected to deliberate independently of the Minister, yet she understood that elected members had met with Ministers McCarthy and Wakefield on the matters. She asked how many such meetings were held, who was there and what was their nature and outcome.
The committee should not only be fair and balanced in its deliberations, it should be seen to be so, she said.
Above: Cr Price on the microphone. Photo from our archive.
She alleged that the committee informed Cr Satour of its decision on the complaint brought by Bess Price seven months before they told her mother.
She said she had made a number of complaints about Cr Satour’s conduct which she still deems to be “inappropriate”.
She made the complaints through the disciplinary committee, after discussion with CEO Rex Mooney, in order to avoid “distracting the entire council from its core duties”.
(Changes to the Local Government Act would remove this option in future: council would be required to deal with complaints in the first instance; if unresolved, an application could be made to a committee under the auspices of LGANT, and, ultimately, to the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which would have the power to make binding orders.)
She alleged “defamatory allegations” had been made about a member of her family, that they had verbally abused Cr Satour and threatened her with violence.
“We maintain that no member of my family threatened Cr Satour directly,” she said.
She then proceeded to traverse the matters complained of in some detail.
In their statements about the findings, Crs Cocking and Satour did not do this.
Cr Price said the committee accepted “false and racially vilifying” allegations about her family by members of the Strong Women’s Group.
She alleged a number of “other false statements” were made in statutory declarations relied upon by Cr Satour.
She rejected as “deeply concerning” an allegation she said had been made by Cr Cocking about her father’s attendance at meetings as intended to intimidate him, and about Mayor Ryan and Mr Mooney “conspiring” with her family over the matter.
She alleged that the Strong Women’s Group had “used culture to bully me into silence”, all because she doesn’t want to change the date of Australia Day.
She alleged members of the group had chosen to “insult and provoke” members of her family who include some of the most “traumatised and marginalised” members of the community.
She said the group had never “reached out” to discuss their concerns with her, but that she had “promptly reached out” to Cr Satour when she heard of her allegations of threats, “to offer my support”. She said Cr Satour had not responded.
She said “blackfella politics” – as Cr Eli Melky had apparently put it – has no place on council.
“If we want harmony and cooperation, we should not just say we do, we must practise what we preach.”
She said she was “deeply concerned” about the disruption the issues had caused to the council.
All that the process had demonstrated is that “one can win over” the disciplinary committee.
She had not made the decision to complain lightly, the whole process had been “very stressful”.
She asked for her statement to be included in the minutes.
At the meeting, nobody said anything in response.
Cr Satour, when asked this morning by Alice Springs News, reaffirmed the findings of the committee in dismissing the complaints against her. She is focussed on getting on with doing her job on council.