Readers will remember that we queried the accuracy of the last set of draft minutes in that the Sounness comments on the removal of Caulfield Park Trees were omitted – despite the fact that other councillor statements were included in the draft minutes. Selective editing and the rewriting of history all over again. Sadly, the minutes (as drafted) were accepted without any single comment by any councillor!

When it came to the minutes of assembly meetings, the following occurred. Lipshutz and Magee moved to accept. Lobo then said:

LOBO: quoted the draft minutes from the 29th October where Hyams brought up the issue of ‘councillor conduct’ and said that ‘these minutes are not a true reflection of what happened’. Went on to say that ‘next year’ council needs to ‘review’ how it does things because it’s pointless to put in ‘a line which has no sense’ and ‘we can’t remove things from the assembly of councillors just because we don’t like something’. Concluded by saying that he wants a ‘proper process’.

HYAMS: claimed that Lobo ‘seems’ to want minutes to ‘record specific comments’ but the minutes only ‘record’ the ‘topics covered and nothing more’ and he thought they were ‘fine’.

LIPSHUTZ: stated that the minutes were ‘perfectly correct’ and that Lobo doesn’t ‘understand’ the purpose about listing topics only.

MOTION PUT: Lobo voted against.

COMMENT

The minutes of councillor assemblies are merely another tool in the armoury of this administration and its compliant councillors. Far from only recording broad topics, the minutes have been used to either place pressure on individual councillors who have not toed the party line, or to further the public relations agenda in portraying council as simply ‘wonderful’. Hyams and Lipshutz really need to revisit some of these minutes to see the complete mistruths of their above statements. Here are just some examples of what we mean and ask readers to contemplate whether these ‘minutes’ are in fact indicating far more than mere ‘topics’.

Minutes of 5th July, 2011 – Hyams – Leader newspaper story on the community satisfaction survey. Said that he had telephoned the Editor of the Caulfield Lead who had conceded that the paper had misinterpreted the facts and had corrected the story of their website. Cr Hyams said that the newspaper had indicated that they would print a corrected story in their next edition.

Magee – GESAC basketball courts allocations. Asked officers to provide councillors with a copy of the ‘brief’ that has been given to the legal practitioner following the Resolution adopted by Council at the 28 June 2011 council meeting (Agenda Iem 12.4 refers)

Hyams – that public questions on matters relating to particular long running issues at Caulfield Park may not constitute harassment under Local Law 232 (j) (iii). How to deal with this issue from hereon.

26th July, 2011

Penhalluriack – Nic Varvodic. Council decision to declare his public questions to be harassment. Need to change the Local Law

9th August 2011 – 12.2 ‘confidential’ – Magee access to two other legal opinions and his conversation with the Ombudsman

PLEASE NOTE: In our report on the council meeting of 27th November, Lobo mentioned his ‘interview’ with the Municipal Inspector. Magee jumped up with a ‘point of order’ (upheld by Pilling) and Hyams then had his say – “Went on to say that ‘the last time’ he spoke with an ‘integrity agency’ he was told all discussions were confidential and commended Magee for the point of order in order to prevent Lobo ‘from breaking that law’.

Our knowledge of such investigations is that not only are discussions ‘confidential’ but investigations themselves are ‘confidential’ and participants are not permitted to reveal their participation. Yet here we have an official record of assembly that confirms Magee’s ‘interview’ with the ombudsman! The Records of Assembly are therefore never an innocuous list of topics discussed. They become as we said another weapon in the attempt to ensure that all councillors toe the party line and thus power and control remain vested in those that compose and distribute the minutes!

PS: AUDIT COMMITTEE MINUTES

Lipshutz moved to accept with amendments to certain words. Sounness seconded.

LIPSHUTZ: repeated the officers’ report that the committee met 4 times during the year and looked at many issues. Emphasised tenders and how ‘this council has got an outstanding record’ when it comes to tenders. Risk management is another area that the council is ‘outstanding on’ and Newton even gives presentations in NSW on risk management. He felt that ‘overall we are kicking goals’ and ‘rated number one’ by various bodies.

Sounness reported on community grants. Okotel then asked a question.

OKOTEL: asked about item 4 of the audit committee meeting minutes where it referred to risk A’; ‘B’ and ‘C’ what ‘these things actually refer to’.

NEWTON: said that the ‘internal auditors’ raised these issues so that they are ranked according to ‘importance’ and ‘A’ is ‘most serious’ and down the scale. These things are ‘reviewed at every meeting, so every meeting knows’ what actions have been taken.

COMMENT

Okotel’s question raises a number of important issues regarding governance, communication, and work done by councillors. There are several ways of interpreting this question:

1. Most importantly – the Audit Committee does not communicate its deliberations and problems back to full council. It remains a closed shop with Lipshutz, Magee, McLean, Gibbs, and Newton running the show and controlling the flow of information?
2. Okotel after being a councillor for one year does not really know what is going on in Audit Committee meetings?
3. Okotel may be asking for the ‘benefit’ of the community. However, that begs the question of why such reports are couched in double-dutch so that the community would not have the foggiest of what the A, B, and C refers to.
4. Has Okotel been performing her duty by asking such questions ‘in-house’ and privately, or has she only picked up on this after one year on council? Or, has she asked and not been provided with an adequate response, so she is now forced to ask in a public forum where a response is required. We note that Newton’s response was certainly bereft of much detail!
5. The Audit Committee has been pronounced by councillors as the most important committee on council. If other councillors do not know what the hell goes on, if they aren’t provided with regular updates, then we can only speculate as to how on top of things the entire group of councillors really is.

We finally note that in the countless records of assembly published for 2013 there is NOT ONE SINGLE MENTION OF THE AUDIT COMMITTEE MEETINGS AND ITS DELIBERATIONS.  So, either there are no reports back to all councillors or, as Lobo tells us, the minutes of assemblies are nothing more than fiction!

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