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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Council casual about failure in its governance

More than a month after DCSCA revealed attempts to fabricate the Minutes of a council meeting, the City of Greater Geelong has failed to address why its governance procedures allowed the attempt to happen.

On 28 January and February 7 2011, DCSCA revealed (on drycliftdays) attempts to fabricate the Minutes of the council meeting on 25 January 2011. The draft Minutes of that Meeting (posted on the CoGG website) recorded a council officer stating that the council will issue a report concerning public health issues associated with a proposed drain in the Central Road area of Drysdale. In fact, the officer had stated that the council hadn't examined those public health issues, i.e. no such report existed. DCSCA told the council that the draft Minutes were inaccurate. The council then posted a revised version on its web site that was even less accurate, attributing to the officer a whole new paragraph about public health issues that he didn't say on the night.

The draft Minutes were being used to give credence to the council's assertion that the Central Road drain is a matter of public health, rather than a way to enable Pinnacle Holdings to build a retirement village there. These assertions are being used to justify - after the event - the highly contentious 'Special Charge' of many thousands of dollars that councillors voted unanimously on 25 January to levy on each household in the Central Road area.

The extraordinary events around the draft Minutes are made even more so by the fact that the council has a 'Governance' portfolio (Cllr. Jan Farrell) and a whole 'Governance' department. Unless and until this failure in the council's governance is corrected, citizens (and councillors) can have no confidence that the events and decisions in council meetings will be reported accurately in the Minutes.

DCSCA asked the Manager of the council's Governance department to explain how these extraordinary events could have happened. In response, the Mayor, Cllr. John Mitchell, assured DCSCA by e-mail (7 February) that he would discuss the events with the council's CEO, Mr. Stephen Griffin. We replied that we would be happy to contribute positive suggestions to that discussion if it was thought appropriate; and that we looked forward to learning of the outcome.

After a month, DCSCA had heard from neither Cllr. Mitchell nor Mr. Griffin, so on 11 March we asked Cllr. Mitchell (by e-mail) how he and Mr. Griffin had decided to respond to the failure in the council's governance procedures. The Mayor's Executive Assistant replied on his behalf that day, stating that the council's 'Manager of Governance ... is currently drafting a letter of response (that) will be finalised next week and mailed to you in due course.'

That response is reminiscent of a standard mathematics exam question: 'If it takes one council Manager one week to write one letter, how long would it take two council managers to write two letters?' Your rates at work!

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