Tuesday, December 1, 2020

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Home Issue 31 Split over acting Mayor

Split over acting Mayor

By KIERAN FINNANE

Mayor Damien Ryan (left), a candidate in the forthcoming NT election, shows no sign of stepping away from his council role until the last minute: that’s August 6.

Who will step into his shoes?

In a report to council, CEO Robert Jennings (pictured on the Zoom screen above) last night proposed that an Elected Member then be appointed to the role. In the case of Mr Ryan’s electoral success or, if unsuccessful, he decides not to apply to return to his position, that Elected Member would remain in the role until the local government elections next year.

Two councillors demurred. Their objection was not to the interim step but to it remaining in place for the duration.

Cr Eli Melky (left) said he would be more in favour of a by-election if the Mayor did not return to his role.

Cr Jimmy Cocking proposed a “two stage process”, with a special general meeting to determine who would become the principal member for the remaining term once the post-election situation becomes clear.

A critical factor in the two-stage process would be that the majority vote could change.

At present, with the resignations of Crs Marli Banks and Catherine Satour, both contesting the election, council is reduced to seven members. With Mayor Ryan and DM Paterson out of the picture from August 6, it will go down to five and will take only three to make a majority.

Given the political complexion of council – with CLP–aligned and socially conservative members generally voting together – the outcome is predictable. It was reflected last night in the solid backing of Cr Jamie de Brenni for LGANT office-bearer positions (he is now council’s nomination for both President and Vice-President, with Cr Cocking not winning support for Vice).

But let’s say the scenario after the election sees Ms Banks and Ms Satour returning to council and Mr Ryan and Mr Paterson out, the result becomes less predictable, with the record showing that that Crs Melky and Cocking (left) have often voted with the former Crs Banks and Satour.

In last night’s debate Mayor Ryan and Deputy Mayor Paterson were unmoved by an early challenge from Cr Melky to them remaining “in the room “(the Zoom meeting).

Cr Jacinta Price’s sole contribution was to call for the matter to be put to a vote.

When Cr Cocking expressed his concern that the Mayor and Deputy Mayor were  “still at the table and possibly voting”, DM Paterson (below left), somewhat uncharacteristically, spat the dummy and left the meeting, followed by Mayor Ryan.

As they were leaving, both said that they found “insulting” Cr Cocking’s suggestion (implying a conflict of interest).

As predictable, the CEO’s proposal for the single step process was then carried, by Crs de Brenni, Price and Glen Auricht.

A fair wager will be that this process will see Cr de Brenni appointed as acting principal for the remainder of the term, no doubt helpful in paving the way for his mayoral tilt next year.

Cr Melky gave notice that he will bring a motion to rescind that resolution “at the earliest opportunity”. Cr Cocking said he’d second it.

8 COMMENTS

  1. I’m confused … again!
    Was this a Council meeting to discuss town council business for the benefit of the town and ratepayers, or purely to determine the legalities, or otherwise, of Councillors other more personnel and prioritised political interests?
    Children in kindergarten behave better than some of these current Councillors!.
    These people wouldn’t recognise a “perceived Conflict of Interest” if it punched them in the face!
    At least Marli Banks and Catherine Satour have done the right and decent thing, thereby enabling Council to go about doing its core business as best it can (well, at least they tried but perhaps didn’t count on others not following!) without adding to the distractions which take up a lot of Council time and efforts.
    But as we know, sometimes “doing the right thing” can backfire … as is the case here in terms of the noted current “voting blocks”.
    However, I will not forget these antics when I soon get to vote in the upcoming NT Elections.

  2. Alicians should wake up to the fact that local councils all around Australia are increasingly assuming de facto political roles.
    Adopting causes outside their council charter has been the Green power base, a platform for State and Territory MP election. The major parties use council membership to test the ratepayer water, to launch political careers.
    Councils have become a virus in Australia’s political scene, with more and more would-be Queen Bee Chiefs than Worker Bee Indians, in the most micro-governed country in the Western democratic world.
    Council charter should be amended to require any councillor who subsequently enters Parliament to refund all remuneration and allowances that they receive during their term of councillor duties.

  3. Well said John Bell. The last thing we need is a by-election and accompanying costs.
    Anyone left on council at the end of the day can don the robes and prance around until the next general election. Can’t see too many people getting their knickers in a knot over who is mayor.

  4. Absolute disgrace. Instead of focusing on the town and the ratepayers it’s all about them and their political aspirations. Said it before, we need wards and councillors responsible to the people of the wards.

  5. @ Litmus: Excellent thought. The establishment of specifically named wards would create nominated individual councillor responsibilities for specified sections of the Alice township.
    Down here in Banyule Council, there is a ward named Olympia. This covers the area of West Heidelberg that was the location of the Olympic Village for the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games.
    Olympia Ward Councillor is Cr Craig Langdon who grew up in the area.
    Craig is a passionate supporter of preserving the history and legacy of the 1956 Games in the Ward with a Memorial Gardens Project Committee of locals currently working on ideas with community input.
    Wards and Ward Councillors in Alice would seem a no-brainer to stimulate community involvement and pride in Council projects and initiatives.
    And it would improve the hands-on relationship between councillors and residents. Yes? No?

  6. @ Litmus: I put forward the proposal earlier in the year for wards but was rejected by council. Good news is that wards are coming.
    The decision in the near future will be made by a different group re wards and not council as part of new changes.
    Also @ Gavin Carpenter: Should there be a need for a bi-election it would be due to the democratic process of people choosing their Territory Rep, so why should we then restrict our democratic process to choose a new mayor from a handful of elected members.
    I say the people should be the ones who decide their new mayor and all should be able to stand and make their pitch. Who knows it could be a fresh new member of the community.

  7. Councillor Cocking checkmated the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor when he expressed his concern that the Mayor and Deputy Mayor were “still at the table and possibly voting”.
    Rather than remain and explain, on the public record, to the satisfaction of other councillors, and the wider public, that they were not bringing a partial and prejudiced view to the resolution about to be resolved, the Mayor and Deputy chose to leave, leaving fair minded observers to speculate what thought processes caused them to leave. Their expression of the term “insulting” on leaving, only confirming that Councillor Cocking had exposed the Mayor and Deputy to a clear example of apprehended bias undermining public confidence in council’s decision making processes.
    The words “guilty” and “embarrassed” rather than “insulting” come to mind.

  8. @ Vince: “apprehended bias” hmm.
    This is a town council, not a court room. Councillors can be pinged for political bias but not apprehended bias.
    It’s the Pub Test they must pass in council business, not the legal jargon of the courtroom.
    You give councils and councillors far too much respect beyond their charter role.

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