Councillors behaving badly - bans on at Parramatta

Pick the real tyrant

It was only a matter of time, really. Parramatta Council has never accepted the 1993 separation of powers between their role and the role of staff. It’s been more than two decades but, for a minority of the current council, they still don’t want to know.

Councillors have wandered through the building, demanding access to people, rifling through files, checking on or advocating for issues that should be recorded as a conflict of interest, bagging staff and generally behaving like, well, a 16th-century monarch pumped up with a divine right to rule.

When Councillor Garrard was Lord Mayor in 2009, one of the first things he did after election in September was to abolish Mufti Day for those commoners employed by the Council who he may need to summon to his Mayoral Chambers/Throne Room, without notice.  Couldn’t possibly turn up other than suited and tied and demonstrating a proper level of obsequiousness. And that they bow, just that little bit more deeply and worshipfully as well.

We stress, that the overwhelming majority of current councillors at Parramatta are respectful and supportive of staff and do the right thing. We are talking about four or five boofheads.

Parramatta was the first Council to have depa members place a ban on a councillor after he had bagged members in a public meeting in 2000. Enough, was clearly enough and something had to be done about this notorious and unacceptable behaviour. And the councillor subsequently apologised.

Members put bans on again in 2009 after councillors took an unseemly interest in planning decisions affecting businesses where sex was provided, or could be provided, on premises. They treated the planning staff with contempt and demanded a number of peer reviews (all of which came back supporting the Council’s own staff) and the settlement of that dispute included a commitment by the Council for some training to improve their understanding of the separation of responsibilities in the Local Government Act - training which we hope they didn’t spend too much money on, because clearly it didn’t work.

On 18 November, the recently reinstalled Lord Mayor Paul Garrard (he’s, baaaack!) demanded entry into a staff area. Councillors should not have security clearance to gain access to floors where staff work anyway and in the move to the new building, the Executive took the opportunity of starting with good governance and behaviour and recommended the councillors be provided with security access only to their own floor and where they legitimately had business.

But the councillors, so comfortable getting their own way whenever they want it, insisted on amending the recommendation to provide them with access to the foyers of employee-only areas.

And so on 18 November, Councillor Garrard, bedecked in chains (well, almost but not the sort of chains we’d like to see him in) knocked insistently on a glass door to the staff area until the door was answered. Then, ignoring the Council’s own policy on the interaction between staff and councillors he claimed that he had complied with the policy of providing prior notice, which he hadn’t, and that he was both invited to the meeting and expected - another porky because the only people who knew he was going to be there were the developers.

Let’s be clear, councillors have no role in a pre-lodgement meeting and historically at Parramatta are only there to intimidate and bully staff on behalf of the applicant or the developer.

 

So, our members met on 10 December and carried a long resolution noting the content and arrogance of a minority of councillors over the years and calling for a behavioural agreement to be signed individually by councillors with depa in which they undertake to comply with their obligations under the Local Government Act, the Code of Conduct, the Policy on Interaction Between Councillors and Staff and a recently adopted protocol for Councillor Interaction on Development Applications.

And the bans will remain on until such time as the councillors individually, and collectively agreed to comply with the legislative and policy obligations.

Here is the letter to the CEO of the Council and the resolution.

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