“Out of touch”: Cr Dixon upbraids fellow councillors for what he claims has been their behaviour during and after official meetings.
Startling and serious claims of councillor misconduct were made at the 5 September special council meeting by two councillors supporting a ban on alcohol “before, during or after council meetings or briefings on council premises”.
No councillor or councillors were named in making the allegations.
The meeting, the third in successive weeks, finally approved the Councillor Expenditure Policy with the support of Cr Andrew “Billy” Dixon.
He had torpedoed it a fortnight ago, objecting to the 66-cent a kilometre reimbursement for use of councillors’ private vehicles.
Cr Bev Colomb, supporting her move for the alcohol ban, told the meeting she was referring to “what’s been going on in the last few months”.
She said: “When it comes to no alcohol, every councillor, and actually every staff member, should be confident and comfortable in any of these [council] rooms and I want to see a council, a new council, feeling totally confident in sitting in that back room, which is their councillors’ lounge.
“I’d like to think people could have a glass of wine and feel that way. But we’ve seen examples when that’s not the case.”
She was supported by Cr Dixon, who said: “Any councillor who seriously believes that elected officials need to sink skinfuls of piss while entertaining officials and diplomats in this day and age are showing just how out of touch and irrelevant they are.
“But perhaps the saddest part of all this is the basis for [the no-alcohol rule]. This is a change that has been induced by the behaviour of certain councillors during and after official meetings and I think that’s a travesty.”
Neither councillor named the colleagues they accused of being alcohol-affected before, at or after council meetings or briefings. It is the only such allegation this council watcher can recall in nearly a decade of attending council meetings.
The no-alcohol rule is Clause 5.2.1 of the newly passed Councillor Expenditure Policy. It reads: “No alcohol is to be provided before, during or after council meetings or briefings on council premises.”
This presumably includes the shire annual general meeting, at which the new mayor is elected, followed by a reception at which food and drink – including alcohol – is usually served to councillors and their families and friends.
The new policy is to take effect on 14 November – the day scheduled for the mayoral election.
The new Councillor Code of Conduct contains references to treating all people including fellow councillors with respect and “in a way that secures and preserves public confidence and respect in the office of Councillor”.
Cr Dixon was also successful in his quest for a higher allowance for private vehicle use. The previous allowance, of 77 cents a kilometre, was dropped to 66 cents in the proposed policy.
As Bandicoot reported previously, Cr Dixon voted against this drop, which is the Australian Tax Office standard, when the policy came to council on 22 August.
His dissent saw the entire draft expenditure policy founder, necessitating a further meeting. This was scheduled for the following Monday night, but the matter could not be debated because of a procedural error.
At the first meeting, following the policy’s defeat, Cr David Gibb had tried – unsuccessfully – to amend the allowance to 76 cents a kilometre, asking Cr Dixon: “Is that acceptable?” Cr Gibb had tried to amend the policy after it had been voted down.
At this week’s third attempt to pass the policy Bandicoot and others noted that the allowance had been lifted to 76 cents. However, Cr Dixon moved an amendment, to wit:
“While performing duties as a Councillor, private vehicle use will be reimbursed at a rate (or rates) pegged to that afforded to staff in the Mornington Peninsula Shire’s current enterprise bargaining agreement.”
No figures were mentioned at the meeting, but the wording of the amendment implies that different reimbursements might be payable depending on the engine capacity of a councillor’s vehicle.
Bandicoot will inform his readers when the reimbursement(s) is/are known. He understands the top payment, for a V8 vehicle, could be in the region of $1.06 a kilometre. That’s up about 40% on 76 cents.
In another failed amendment, Cr Gibb tried to reduce from $16,000 to $10,000 the four-year councillor allowance for conferences and seminars.
After some confusion and a short debate it was rejected when Cr Antonella Celi voted against the cut – ironic because it was her alleged overspend of this very allowance that prompted her factional colleagues to introduce a new $10,000 “training” allowance for councillors.
This sum gave councillors a 62.5% allowances rise. Perhaps Cr Gibb was trying to ameliorate in part this outrageous piece of self-directed generosity in these straitened times.
* Bandicoot reported previously that Cr Dixon’s vehicle allowance amendment had been rejected. He apologises for this inaccuracy. It was the sort of meeting where improbabilities became fact.