From the Newsroom

Cr Karen Toms claims a recission motion lodged by Cr Greg Clancy at council extraordinary meeting on Friday, August 18, is not legal. Image: CVC

One last stand before election

Geoff Helisma

Clarence Valley Council (CVC) will sit one more time – 4pm at the Grafton chambers this Friday December 3 – the day before the NSW local government elections are held.

Councillor Karen Toms requested an extraordinary meeting, seconded by Cr Debrah Novak, calling for the “removal of Mr and Mrs Cairns and Mr Shane Powell from the council’s Unreasonable Complainants Conduct (UCC) list”.

Debrah Novak

The Independent previously reported that the NSW Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) adjudged Clarence Valley Council (CVC) to have “conflated GIPA [Government Information (Public Access) Act] provisions when notifying” Yamba resident Lynne Cairns, in relation to her request for documents associated with unauthorised building works at Gumnut Road, Yamba.

In that story, a series of emailed questions put to the general manager, Ashley Lyndsay, went unanswered – one of which asked: ‘Will CVC lift its UCC action against Ms Cairns, given the IPC has found in her favour?’

Mr Lyndsay responded, “I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to answer any of these questions.”

Mr Lindsay began a year’s long service leave last Friday and will retire upon his return.

Cr Toms wrote to the mayor, Jim Simmons, on Thursday November 25, “to request and extraordinary meeting [to] be held in accordance with 3.2.1 of council’s code of meeting practice … before Friday December 3, the last day of term”.

Before writing to the mayor, Cr Toms had asked Mr Lindsay if the UCCs could be lifted, however, she was advised that “this course of action [calling an extraordinary meeting] … must be taken for my request to remove Mr and Mrs Cairns and Mr Shane Powell from the council’s UCC list”, she wrote in her report to council.

The background section of the report to the extraordinary meeting states: “Ombudsman investigator, Mr Michael Conaty, has recently written to Mrs Cairns advising her [that] he has spoken to Mr Lindsay and told him it was his view [that] council had departed from its UCC procedure, which states: ‘Unless a complainant’s conduct poses a substantial risk to health and safety of staff or other third parties, the Director of Corporate and Governance [acting general manager Laura Black] will provide them with a written warning letter about their conduct in the first instance.’”

Meanwhile, Mr Lindsay advised Ms Cairns in an email on November 26 that he supported Ms Black’s decision to ban her, “based on the fact that I believe your correspondence with Council prior to the GIPA application being refused still meets the definition of ‘unreasonable persistence’ (in accordance with the UCC Policy) on a range of issues and, as result, your conduct has had a disproportionate and unreasonable impact on our organisation, staff, services, time and resources”.

At least five of the nine councillors will have to attend to form a quorum.

If a quorum is not achieved, CVC’s code of meeting practice states: “The general manager must record in the council’s minutes the circumstances relating to the absence of a quorum (including the reasons for the absence of a quorum) at or arising during a meeting of the council, together with the names of the councillors present.”

The code of meeting practice states under the ‘Leadership’ heading: “We will have a strong, accountable and representative government [that] ensures good governance, effective risk management and statutory compliance.”