Council confusion and chaos leads to documents being opened
IT SEEMS Tweed residents will be allowed to view legal advice given to council about the Tweed Valley Hospital Project, but only due to a bizarre misjudgement made by councillors, and the mayor using her authority.
At Thursday night's meeting, the council was expected to reverse a decision made last month to release the legal documents, as four councillors declared they believed the public should not be able to see them.
Issues about legal privilege and being "selective” with what the council would and would not reveal was the reason councillors James Owen, Pryce Allsop, Warren Polglase and Reece Byrnes wanted to rescind the decision.
But Cr Byrnes did not show up at the meeting, which meant the rescission was set to fail.
However, Cr Owen put forth an alternate motion to defer the matter to an August meeting instead, but most councillors mistakenly thought they were voting for an amendment.
Once Cr Owen's alternate motion to defer the matter was defeated by councillors Katie Milne, Chris Cherry and Ron Cooper, they thought they would be able to again vote against the rescission motion.
However, by voting on Cr Owen's alternate motion, they had actually thrown the whole thing out of the meeting, allowing Cr Owen to raise it again in August.
Only Cr Polglase seemed to know what had happened.
Confusion reigned over the chambers for the next hour while frantic phone calls to lawyers and the absent general manager, Troy Green, were made during the dinner break.
The chambers were closed three times to allow Mr Green to address the councillors about what they had done, and advise how councillors Milne, Cooper and Cherry could fix the mistake they had made.
The mayor was able to put forth a Mayoral Minute to bring the motion back and vote again, which meant the legal documents would be made available to the public.
That vote was tied at three-votes each, with the Mayor using her casting vote to allow the documents to be viewed by the public.
The result led councillors to slam Cr Milne.
Cr Allsop told the chamber what the mayor had done was the equivalent of "the ref scoring a try” and "the umpire having a hit”.
It is understood council staff will be reviewing the legality of Thursday night's motion and Mayoral Minute before publishing the minutes of the meeting.
Once those minutes are published, the Daily News understands the public will be able to go to the council offices and request to view the legal advice the council was given regarding the hospital site.