Question to Gympie council: what is there to hide?
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
SELECTIVE transparency is practised by many local governments in Queensland because they can.
The Local Government Act and the Regulations which govern local councils give mayors and CEOs powers that eclipses that of any other level of government or government corporation including state and federal ministers.
Councillors who may have a differing opinion are gagged under confidentiality penalties, particularly when decisions are made in "in committee”.
Will our Mayor, the CEO and their supporting councillors admit personal responsibility for any of the non-transparent decisions they have made without any meaningful community engagement and which consequently prove to be financially unviable or cost prohibitive, imposing further costs on the ratepayers through coercion in the form of levies to pay for imprudent decisions forced on this community?
Community engagement, accountability and transparency are not concepts that all mayors, councillors and public servants accept.
Mayors, CEOs and executive staff of Local Government Corporations have a tendency to be selective about how they engage with the community and manage accountability and transparency.
Whilst our council claims to be transparent it is selective in what it decides must to be kept from the public.
Since the March 2016 election 19 ordinary meetings and two special meetings have been held and councillors have voted unanimously to discuss business "in committee” during 18 of those meetings.
Why do all councillors vote to take matters that the Mayor and CEO decide must be held in secret and that are of public interest, into committee?
What is there to hide?
Do we not have at least some concerned councillors who feel that significant spending matters and changes to structure of council should be discussed in open meetings?
The most recent issues that were and are of importance and should have been discussed in open meetings are the aquatic centre tender and lease, the Rattler levy (subsequently renamed the Economic Development Levy), the Rattler tenders and the water and waste board set-up which have and will continue to cost the community millions of dollars.
These issues have been as transparent as molasses.
The Local Government Regulations Item No.275 "Closed Meetings”, clearly states "A Local Government or Committee may resolve that a meeting be closed to the public if its councillors or members consider it necessary to close the meeting”. There is no compulsion here councillors, so why vote unanimously to discuss any contentious issues that might impact negatively on the Mayor and the CEO in secret?
An election is in the wind and if you, the ratepayer, have had enough of the selective transparency being adopted by local government then it is time to lobby your local state candidates as soon as they are announced, for changes to be made to the Local Government Act and Regulations to ensure community engagement, transparency and accountability is enforced as required in the five principles that underpin the Local Government Act and which have been ignored by both local and state governments, past and present.