DEBATE: The Fraser Coast Regional Council's meeting on Wednesday erupted in fierce debate.
DEBATE: The Fraser Coast Regional Council's meeting on Wednesday erupted in fierce debate. Valerie Horton

Debate rages on emails, legal advice in council meeting

IN LIGHT of the past week, mayor Chris Loft has reiterated his mantra of "no secrets, no surprises" with the Fraser Coast Regional Council.

But during Wednesday's council meeting, Cr Loft refused to answer questions relating to his access of CEO Lisa Desmond's emails.

Three separate motions involving the "unilateral and confidential legal advice" sought by the mayor following the 2016 local government election and the access of the CEO's emails were tabled in the meeting, which provoked fierce debate between councillors and mayor.

Cr Anne Maddern sought to move the motions into confidential when they were introduced, while Cr Rolf Light left the chamber.

Cr Taylor sought to table the itemised invoices legal advice, which he noted was a major part of the advisor's report into council.

"There was a report by the state government that refers to a confidential and unilateral decision by the mayor; I didn't pass a resolution for that to occur. It's a simple request, and I'm not trying to confuse or conflate the issues," he said.

His comments drew the ire of Cr Denis Chapman, who accused him of "grandstanding the mayor."

The motion was amended to include tabling all itemised invoies relating to council legal advice.

But Cr Loft questioned which specific legal advice was being referred to, claiming other solicitors had been involved with council business prior to the engagement.

Further tensions arose when Cr Taylor questioned Cr Loft's interpretation of section 170a of the Local Government Act.

 

"As mayor, I am entitled in the act to get any information. I don't need a resolution." - Cr Chris Loft

Cr David Lewis echoed a similar sentiment, calling for separate reports into both matters,

Cr Truscott moved a specific motion regarding the mayor's secret access to the CEO's emails, asking council to table any correspondence relating to the mayor's request.

"Such a request could not be considered reasonable or within the confines of the mayor's responsibilities, so to ensure transparency such request should be made publicly available before community confidence is further eroded," he said.

"If the CEO had done this on one of the staff, I would be infuriated; it's an absolute breach of privacy."

But Cr Loft defended his actions, stating it was the correct process while the CEO was on leave.

"It was advised that if the CEO went on leave, that is the correct process to secure the organisation. That was what the advice was," he said.

All motions were passed by way of a procedural motion.

 

What's the difference between my email inbox and the CEO's? 
- Cr George Seymour