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Transparency, disclosure statements and one person

Geoff Helisma|

At the September 24 Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting, Cr Greg Clancy said he wanted to move a motion to publish “disclosures of interest of councillors and staff … on the council’s website, to allow greater access to the whole” community.

Cr Karen Toms seconded his motion, however, what followed eventually resulted in a unanimous decision to retain the current policy – make an appointment to look at them in the presence of a CVC officer.

During questions, Cr Toms asked if it was “normal practice” compared to other councils.

Governance director Laura Black said she’d “had a look at this during the week” and confirmed that “most councils do it exactly the same way”.

Cr Clancy said, “I can’t see why this register is being treated like a Holy Grail.

“We are public servants … what is so special about our disclosures?” he said.

Councillor Andrew Baker asked: “How many applications for a look at these things has council had this year?”

General manager Ashley Lindsay said, as far as he knew, “we only get one a year and it’s the same person”.

Cr Jason Kingsley asked if information is “unwittingly made available” (see Councillors oppose uploading disclosures of interest story), “what are the repercussions”?

Ms Black said “we are required to notify” a breach of privacy.

Cr Kingsley asked: “If it comes to your attention on a Friday, should you be notifying those persons on the Friday or should it be left for a couple of days?”

Mr Lindsay said “it should have been …as soon as we knew about it”.

At this point, Cr Richie Williamson said “the questions really need to be on the proposed motion”.

Questions were curtailed and debate proceeded.

Cr Baker said “disclosures of Interest … shouldn’t be out for everyone to simply access online”.

Arguing against publishing a councillor’s or a staff member’s address online, Cr Baker said: “…if we are going to allow access to … residential” addresses at CVC offices, “at least that will be logged or recorded… we get elected to come in here and make our decisions and that should be the end of it.”

Cr Arthur Lysaught said he thought the “fact that we are even looking at changing the existing policy to accommodate one person doesn’t make sense to me … I think we all know who we are talking about”.

Cr Williamson said, “Just because we are elected … just because somebody gets a job at [the council] shouldn’t mean that your data and privacy [are] open game.”

Cr Clancy said he didn’t call his motion “because it was raised by that person”, but because he “believe[s] in full disclosure”.

Cr Toms said, “Generally yes, we have had one person come in … but that person has every right to have a look at it … so while … people here … believe that we shouldn’t be doing this because it is one person, I don’t support that at all.”

Cr Williamson said “putting this on the internet does not make anything open and transparent” but it “does make our data … available for people … to get hold of”.

Cr Baker said: “Should we make … our decision … to satisfy one person” or “the 49,999 out of 50,000 that are okay” with the current process?

“I’ll go with the 49,999 Mr Mayor,” he said,

Cr Peter Ellem said putting the disclosures on the internet sounded “warm and fuzzy … but I’m only prepared to go as far as it being available at both offices … under strict supervision”.

Mayor Simmons said he believed that “the great majority of residents in the Clarence Valley just … want councillors to get on with their role”.

“The information is available if [people] want to look at it and the gentleman mentioned has certainly had a look at it…” he said. Mayor Simmons said he believed that “the great majority of residents in the Clarence Valley just … want councillors to get on with their role … and the gentleman mentioned has certainly had a look at it”.

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