We unequivocally condemn this council for its continued and flagrant breaches of the Local Government Act, 1989. The latest instance of this is in response to several public questions. A little background first.

The LGA clearly defines the legal function and composition of an ‘assembly of councillors’. It says –

assembly of Councillors (however titled) means a meeting of an advisory committee of the Council, if at least one Councillor is present, or a planned or scheduled meeting of at least half of the Councillors and one member of Council staff which considers matters that are intended or likely to be

(a) the subject of a decision of the Council; or

(b) subject to the exercise of a function, duty or power of the Council that has been delegated to a person or committee—

but does not include a meeting of the Council, a special committee of the Council, an audit committee established under section 139, a club, association, peak body, political party or other organisation

Being a representative of Glen Eira Council to the MAV state conference is a ‘delegated’ position – ratified by a council resolution. Esakoff is thus a ‘delegated person’. The LGA then goes on to state:

Where a Council is empowered to do any act, matter or thing, the decision to do the act, matter or thing is to be made by a resolution of the Council.

For the purposes of subsection (5), resolution of the Council means—

(a) a resolution made at an ordinary meeting or special meeting;

(b) a resolution made at a meeting of a special committee;

(c) the exercise of a power, duty or function delegated to a member of Council staff under section 98—

but does not include any business transacted at an assembly of Councillors.

What all of this means is that:

  • Decisions CANNOT be made at assemblies
  • DECISIONS must be made via formal council resolution and tabled in the minutes

So, we then come to the crux of the matter – How can Esakoff, the delegated representative of council vote for various motions at the MAV conference, when NO FORMAL RESOLUTION HAS BEEN PASSED WHICH LEGITIMISES THESE VOTES?

The only mention of a MAV conference occurred in the Records of Assembly meeting dated the 14th May, 2013 and which eventually made an appearance in the council minutes of July 2nd, 2013. The minutes of this assembly read –  Cr Esakoff – MAV State Council Motions – Fire Services Levy, 11, 15, 13, 18, 20, 32, 37, 48, 55, 59, 60, late No. 4, 6, 7.

At last Tuesday night’s council meeting a public question queried Esakoff on her voting at the State Conference. It asked:

“At a recent council meeting Cr Esakoff reported on the MAV’s State Conference without actually reporting on how Glen Eira City Council voted on any of the motions. I therefore ask Cr Esakoff, how she voted on behalf of Glen Eira, on the Melbourne City Council 3 part motion entitled “Transparency in Local Government Decision Making”. That is: did she vote in favour, against, or abstained and would she please explain the rationale behind any such actions?”

The response was:

Cr Esakoff provided a response. She said:

“The Melbourne City Council motion referred to was actually a four part motion, with the fourth part stating that Councils should provide at least five data sets in an open format to a common platform.

Being the consensus of the councillor group and as Council’s delegate, I voted against this motion, the reasons being that we felt the motion was overly prescriptive and that it was not the role of other Councils to tell Councils how to govern themselves. That is something for each Council to decide, within the required parameters.

The motion was defeated by close to two thirds at the State Council Meeting and, judging by the debate, many Councils shared these concerns.”

COMMENT

Here’s what the actual motion was – taken directly from the MAV agenda for this meeting in October 2013.

Motion 40: Transparency in Local Government Decision Making
Submitting Council: Melbourne City Council

Motion:
That the MAV State Council encourages member councils to voluntarily embrace the following transparency measures in order to maintain Victoria’s position as the best governed and most transparent local government sector in Australia.

1.Residents or other interested parties should have at least one 15 minute opportunity each month to ask general unscripted verbal questions at a formal meeting of all councillors.
2. Councils should endeavour to maintain a publicly accessible audio archive of council meetings in order to provide a fuller public record of proceedings than can be made available in the formal written minutes.
3. In the event of council decisions which are not unanimous, the council minutes should record how individual councillors voted on a particular item, without the need for a division being called.
4. All Councils commit to open and transparent government by providing at least 5 data sets in an open format to a common platform such as CKAN, the free platform currently used by the Federal Government and many other international governments.

Not only is Esakoff’s vote PRE-EMPTING COUNCIL DECISIONS, since we are still waiting for a report on audio recordings, but more importantly, the word CONSENSUS has no legal standing. It is not present in the Local Government Act, the Councillor Code of Conduct, nor in the Local Law. Consensus means bugger all – legally and ethically. In order to have voted for, against, or abstained from ANY motion, a resolution of full council had to occur. It did not and never does. That represents a flagrant breach of the Local Government Act and is simply another instance of DECISION MAKING THAT IS ILLEGAL AND CONDUCTED BEHIND THE CLOSED DOORS OF ASSEMBLY MEETINGS. We will be pursuing this matter further.

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