Sign saga pits Gary against Barry

FOUR councillors have berated Mayor Gary Bagnall for publicly criticising the council staff and State MPs during the recent Tweed welcome sign saga.

Deputy Mayor Phil Youngblutt and Crs Warren Polglase and Carolyn Byrne at Thursday night's meeting, backed former mayor Cr Barry Longland's notice of motion that Mayor Bagnall send a letter drafted for him to the Deputy Premier of NSW Troy Grant and local State MPs.

The letter was to smooth over the "damage" Cr Bagnall's comments had caused to the council's relationship with the State Government.

Cr Longland said he was concerned that Cr Bagnall's intemperate comments had placed future state funding in jeopardy.

But despite the motion getting up 4-3 (Armstrong, Bagnall, Milne), Mayor Bagnall has vowed he will not send any letter written by anyone else, as this was one of the practices for which he'd criticised the council's media department.

Mayor Bagnall read out his own letter, sent to Tweed MP Geoff Provest, dated November 10. In it he apologised that the welcome sign funding announcement for the shire's northern entrance had not received the publicity it deserved.

But he said he had been trying to sort out a practice where the mayor's mail was opened by staff and written responses prepared for him.

"I'm bucking against that trend of the past and putting an end to the practice where the mayors had everything written for them and controlled," Mayor Bagnall told the meeting.

"I won't be controlled in what I say.  I'll write all my own statements."

The two former mayors, Longland and Polglase, rejected Mayor Bagnall's claims that the bureaucratic practices in the past were dishonest or misleading.

They said they were standard practices which ensured all correspondence was registered and checks and balances were in place.

They denied that letters and media comments were issued without their input or consent.

Cr Byrne warned that Mayor Bagnall could lodge a code of conduct against those councillors criticising him.

Cr Polglase said he was tempted to bring forward a vote of no confidence in him.

Cr Michael Armstrong said the matter should have been dealt with in private.

He said he could not support the letter Cr Longland had drafted as it could be interpreted as support for incumbent State MPs just four months out from a state election.

After the meeting, Mayor Bagnall said an unsuccessful motion he had put forward to write to state MPs expressing disappointment at the lack of media exposure given to the sign funding announcement and offering thanks for the $10,000, was more generous than Cr Longland's motion.

He reiterated his intention not to send Cr Longland's letter.

During the sign saga, Mayor Bagnall's claim that he had been gagged when his comments about CSG signs had been left out of a joint State Government-council press release received extensive media coverage.

The Deputy Premier refuted the claim during an interview on ABC Radio.

Mayor Bagnall is just two months into the job after Cr Longland did not re-contest the position when his former supporters switched their backing to Cr Bagnall.

The pair are members of the same dominant faction, who usually vote as a block. 

But this episode appears to mark a deepening division between them.

Clarification: It was originally reported that Cr Byrne had warned during the meeting that she may lodge a code of conduct complaint against Mayor Bagnall. But Cr Byrne said her comment was that Mayor Bagnall may lodge a complaint against those councillors criticising him. The story above was changed to reflect this.



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