'Are council minutes a true and correct record anymore?'
Devil's in the minutes
THERE is more to the debate about Cr Hartwig's alleged MPI than just petty political point scoring.
For a start, it brings into question whether the minutes are "a true and correct record”. Cr Hartwig says he declared a Conflict of Interest. The Mayor claims Cr Hartwig declared a Material Personal Interest. The minutes show MPI. Crs Hartwig, Fredman, Smerdon and Stewart believe the minutes are inaccurate.
That doubt further undermines community confidence in the minutes, which already contain so little information anyway. Secondly, under the Local Government Act, both MPI and COI arise from a councillor being in a position to gain a benefit or a loss by their participation, but there is a very important difference.
In the case of an MPI, the Act mandates that the councillor must leave, but in the case of a COI, it is at the discretion of the other councillors.
Council's records need some clarity
I READ with interest the editorial by Scott Kovacevic, "Council disagrees on the records” (GT 27/09/19), which refers to Cr Hartwig's notice of motion at the council meeting held on September 25, 2019 when he requested that a record in section 9.4 of the August 28, 2019 minutes which states that he had a "Material Personal Interest” be changed to a "Conflict of Interest”.
Cr Hartwig has in past meetings formally declared he had a "Perceived Conflict of Interest” (PCOI) not a "Material Personal Interest” (MPI) for subcontract work he carried out for a contractor repairing a bridge in relation to the Rattler Project.
Publicly available information shows that during the January 23, 2019 council meeting, Cr Hartwig, on a notice of motion "Request to Release Rattler Report” to councillors, openly and formally declared that he had a PCOI regarding the Rattler Project.
His declaration is recorded as follows: "I declare that I have a perceived conflict of interest in this matter (as defined in the Local Government Act 2009, section 175D) as follows: I carried out subcontractor work on bridge repairs. I believed there can be no financial benefit or gain to me relating to this report so chose to remain in the meeting and vote on the matter.”
The minutes of the July 24 council meeting show Cr Hartwig's interest had changed from a PCOI to an MPI. The same type of interest is noted in the minutes of the August 28, 2019 meeting.
On both these occasions, Cr Hartwig was denied a vote on Rattler Project items. Why?
The result of Cr Hartwig's notice of motion at the council meeting on September 25 requesting an amendment to the minutes of the meeting to reflect his original declaration of a PCOI was defeated by four votes to five is ironic.
Cr Stewart voted in support of Cr Hartwig's motion and has defended his actions in the GT (September 28, 2019) headlined "Minutes are inaccurate”.
Cr McDonald, however, objected to the motion and stated he "clearly heard” Cr Hartwig make a "Material Personal Interest” declaration at the August meeting.
A PCOI became an MPI between the January 23, 2019 and the August 28, 2019 meetings, but Cr Hartwig says his circumstances have not changed. So why has his recorded declaration?
A comment was made by Cr Curran in the GT (September 27, 2019) "a material personal interest does not evaporate from week to week”.
Using the same logic, how does a PCOI evaporate from one month to another and become a MPI?
Why would Cr Curran and four other councillors, three of whom were at the January 23 meeting, vote to impose an MPI on a fellow councillor and not support his motion for change when they were part of a unanimous vote endorsing his declared PCOI which allowed him to vote on the Rattler notice of motion another meeting?
This matter needs to be clarified by the council.