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What councillors said about CVC advertising costs petition

The petition was lodged by facebook group, The Clarence Forum, which requested: “Stop The Secrecy, Tell Us The Truth: Tell us the amounts paid to The Independent, DEX, 2GF and related radio from CVC’s advertising budget.”
Councillors were not advised (in the business paper) of who lodged the petition; nor has the petition been retained on the public record.
One hundred and forty-six people signed the online, Change.org petition. It was the last digital petition that Clarence Valley Council (CVC) accepted. All future petitions must be written and submitted on a CVC-provided pro forma.
The petition was tabled at the March council meeting after councillors previously resolved at the February meeting that a “report be presented … in relation to a petition received in January 2016”.
Councillor Karen Toms said the community “is entitled to know where half a million dollars of expenditure is going … in the interest of openness and transparency”.
“We have a mayor who works at a radio station; we should be open and transparent for his benefit, as well,” she said.
“I just don’t get why we can’t just tell our community where our expenditure goes.
“It’s a lot of money [and] it is their right to know.”
Cr Andrew Baker failed in his push to have the council receive a report to the April 2016 meeting “detailing advertising income and expenditure and including the destination of expenditure payments by proportion”.
Councillor Hughes said she just wanted to know why Cr Baker wanted the information.
Councillor McKenna felt the same way, wondering what Cr Baker was “trying to achieve”.
Cr Baker said: “We [councillors] should at least be seen to understand why we need to spend $500,000” a year, and said he hoped to receive a report of a “general nature” in the future.
Cr Jason Kingsley: “If there are 146 petitioners, then doing the sums, if they all put in 50 cents then there would be enough to pay for the GIPA request and probably enough left for a carton of beer.”
He wondered: “Will this open the door for more of these petitions to come to us on regular basis [if he supported Cr Baker’s report request] on something I have no idea on what they are trying to achieve?”
Cr Arthur Lysaught: “My opinion of this particular petition … is that we are pandering to – I’d like to say what I really think of them – people who are wasting council officers’ time…
“They dig all this information out and it goes nowhere.
“…The amount of time our officers are taking to dig out the sort of information coming out by this particular group or people is disgraceful…”
Cr Sue Hughes: “We have not had confirmation from the staff that there is $10,000 per week or half a million dollars; it’s all hearsay and rumour.
“…I think $30 is the GIPA request [cost], and I think if this particular mob are really interested in finding out where our advertising costs go, they should just apply through the normal formal requests.”
Cr Margaret McKenna: “I do respect the petitioners, but I don’t know what their concerns are.
“…I don’t think that the staff should be spending any more of their time on this matter at this point in time.
“…We have to get on with the job and I think this is … further down the line, [regarding] items of the budget, because that is what we employ our fantastic staff to do.”
Cr Jim Simmons said he “respected” what Cr Baker was “endeavouring to do … regarding where our spending is going in different areas”, but was “not so fussed with Point 1 when the petition seems to be enquiring as to where money is spent with different outlets in the Clarence Valley”.
He wondered where to “draw the line with the types of reports” tabled at council meetings.
Councillor Craig Howe (who chaired the meeting in mayor’s absence) said the successful vote against providing the information doesn’t stop the petitioners lodging a formal GIPA (Government Information (Public Access)).
He asked the general manager if there would be any commercial in confidence considerations if a GIPA was lodged.
General manager Scott Greensill said the information might be available through a formal GIPA request; however, he said he would need “to check for contractual obligations that might be in place”.
Cr Howe said he believed that the report tabled at the meeting was not about the council’s spending on advertising, but more about complying with the council’s code of meeting practice.

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