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New twist in RCoW council gag drama

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A NEWLY released document has thrown into question the Rural City of Wangaratta’s policy of forbidding councillors to speak publicly outside the council chamber.

The Protocols for Councillors and Officers policy has been developed by the Municipal Association of Victoria and is used as a basis by the council to guide councillor roles and responsibilities.
The document states that only the mayor and chief executive officer are authorised to speak to the media on behalf of council without limitation.

“Councillors are authorised to speak to the media on behalf of council within the area of their portfolio with the approval of the mayor or chief executive officer,” it states.

However, the document goes on to say that councillors are entitled to present their own views, as long as they follow strict guidelines, which include showing respect for the decision-making process.

“As a representative of the community, councillors need to be not only responsive to community views, but to adequately communicate the attitude and decisions of the council,” it reads.

“There may be times when a councillor, as an individual, disagrees with a majority decision of the council and wants the community to know that.”

The man at the centre of the debate, Cr Justin Scholz, believed the protocols set out in the document gave councillors the right to voice their personal views on council issues.

‘That, to me, is pretty obvious,” he said.

“I would like council to acknowledge that the adopted protocol policy allows councillors to inform the community of their disagreement with a majority decision of council.”

Rural city mayor, Don Joyce, however, stood by council’s stance and said if a councillor wanted to voice their opinion it was to be done in the council chamber.

“For a councillor to go out and publicly say he’s not going to agree with the decision, then that defeats the whole governance decision of council,” he said.

“Once the issue has been debated, that opportunity has been given, the decision has been made, you move on.

“All councillors have the opportunity to do that within the council chamber.”

Council’s communication policy initially came under fire last month after Cr Scholz declined to make comment at a public meeting.

He said council had an agreement in place that restricted individual councillors from speaking directly to a group or the media.

But the practice has been met with community backlash which demonstrated Wangaratta ratepayers wanted their councillors to have a public voice.

… original published in The Chronicle, Monday 21 August


Written by Greg Naylor

23 August 2006 at 7:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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