At last council meeting one public question was declared ‘inappropriate’ and not read out. It related to the role of councillor representatives on the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve Trustees. Before we publish the question and the answer, some history.

  • Esakoff, Lipshutz & Hyams were appointed by the Liberal Government as councillor reps on the trustees. There were 8 councillor nominees but magically these three got the nod.
  • All three had formed part of the Special Committee deciding on the Caulfield Village proposal.
  • A petition containing 64 signatures was tabled at council in February 2013, asking that the Minister review the appointments.
  • The petition was rejected (a first in Glen Eira). Those voting against acceptance of the petition were Pilling, Lipshutz, Hyams, Esakoff, Sounness & Okotel
  • Lobo raised the issue of conflict of interest since Lipshutz, Hyams, & Esakoff were directly involved in the petition. None declared a conflict of interest.

In the discussion that took place, both Hyams and Lipshutz declared their role as trustees to be one of working, representing, and advancing the cause of their constituents. Here is what they said –

HYAMS: thought that the petition was ‘pathetic’ and didn’t want to ‘set a precedent’ where ‘we’re rehashing council decisions because some people don’t like it’ and that would lead to petitions on all council decisions.Said that the government appointed the 3 councillors ‘who came first in their wards’. Read out the numbers of first preference votes for each of the three councillors that people ‘are happy to have those councillors representing them’ and ’64 people come along and think they are more important’ and this ‘shows at the very least an exaggerated sense of their own importance’. Went on to say that it was ‘very sad’ that people can be ‘so spiteful’ and that he knows what’s ‘behind it’ and the ‘people behind it’ and it doesn’t ‘surprise’ him at all.

LIPSHUTZ: said the petition was ‘ridiculous’ but that ‘when any member of this council’ is appointed that they’re appointed as ‘representatives of council’ and ‘we in fact act on behalf of the community’. Spoke about the Leader article and Magee and ‘what he tried to achieve’ and that was following council policy and he’s (Lipshutz) asked for the same things since ‘2005’. This wasn’t ‘something new’ it was what ‘council has approved’. Council doesn’t want training at the racecourse which is what Magee was advocating and it’s what council wants too. The petition is ‘ridiculous’ and just ‘shows the small minded people’…’we’re councillors and we’re here for the benefit of the community’. People mightn’t like every decision but the choice is ‘vote us out’. Voters had ‘confidence’ about all 9 councillors and even though they’ve got different views on things ‘we are a councillor group as one’ and as trustees they ‘will be there to support the community’

So to the inadmissible public question –

If councillors on the Board of trustees for the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve Trust do not represent the council, or the citizens of Glen Eira, who do they represent?

Response: On the basis of your own statement in part 3 of your Public Question Part 3 is deemed inappropriate pursuant to Clause 12 (b) of Council’s ‘Guidelines for Public Question Time’ and clause 232(2)(j)(ii) of the Local Law which states: “does not relate to the business of Council or otherwise relates to a Councillor or staff member other than in their Council capacity;”

CONCLUSION

  • Either councillor trustees do not know what their role is, or they will say anything that will further their spurious arguments – even if this contradicts the ‘advice’ provided by Newton in both 2003 and in 2006 – ie Council is not “represented” on the Trust. The duty of a trustee is to the Trust. A trustee, who is also a Councillor, is under a legal obligation to make Trust decisions
    in the best interests of the Trust.
  • How valid such Newton advice is, needs to be challenged, as it has been by the Auditor General –

The make-up of the trust enables MRC, Glen Eira City Council and state government views to be considered as part of its decision-making processes. Until recently, however, members of the local community had no direct means of engaging with trustees on matters of importance to them. They had to rely on council representatives to present their views.

Within the trust, there have been differing views about how these competing uses can be reconciled. More recently, this has created tensions between trustees representing the Melbourne Racing Club (MRC) and those representing the government and Glen Eira City Council.

  • How many more times will this council denigrate and refuse to answer genuine public questions? Please note that the role of the trustees is to serve the public interest. That means the residents of Glen Eira. If the local community cannot have any faith that Lipshutz, Esakoff and Hyams are in fact truly representing their best interests, then they should not be trustees.
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