Mayor rolled on bid to close brief­ings

North West Telegraph - - Telegraph News - Sophia Con­stan­tine

A lively dis­cus­sion broke out be­tween the mayor and elected coun­cil­lors at the Town of Port Hed­land over whether to keep agenda brief­ing meet­ings open to the pub­lic.

Pub­lic agenda meet­ings are de­signed to al­low elected mem­bers and the pub­lic to ask ques­tions on agenda items be­fore the or­di­nary coun­cil meet­ing.

Of­fi­cers had rec­om­mended in the agenda for the first meet­ing of coun­cil­lors since the elec­tion late last month that the meet­ings hap­pen be­hind closed doors.

How­ever, Cr Ge­orge Dac­cache said the meet­ings were im­por­tant to the pub­lic and in­stead pro­posed the meet­ings only be held be­hind closed doors as re­quired.

Mayor Camilo Blanco said the brief­ings were a “waste of time” be­cause “the pub­lic don’t show up”.

“There could be dis­agree­ments out there and that’s just fine. But I haven’t seen those peo­ple dis­agree,” he said. “It’s an op­por­tu­nity for coun­cil­lors to have bet­ter, ro­bust dis­cus­sions about the is­sues in the agenda. We’ve been able to dis­cuss these is­sues with­out stand­ing or­ders and the rules associated with hav­ing the pub­lic watch­ing us.”

Cr Dac­cache hit back at Mr Blanco’s com­ments, stat­ing he was “shocked” that Mr Blanco was “afraid of the pub­lic com­ing to the meet­ings and hav­ing a say”.

Cr Richard Whitwell said keep­ing the meet­ings pri­vate was only ap­pro­pri­ate when a con­fi­den­tial mat­ter was at stake.

“To have the idea that we have to shield our­selves from the pub­lic so that we can have a talk is crazy,” he said.

Cr Telona Pitt said she was “all for keep­ing the brief­ings open”.

“How can we rep­re­sent the com­mu­nity if we’re not al­low­ing them to en­gage with us,” she said. Cr Julie Arif agreed the pub­lic must have the op­por­tu­nity to ask ques­tions if they wish.

“To stop the op­por­tu­nity for the pub­lic to ask the ques­tion is just not right,” she said.

Coun­cil­lors voted for Cr Dec­ca­che’s al­ter­na­tive word­ing for the rec­om­men­da­tions 8-1. The meet­ings will con­tinue to be held in pub­lic un­less deemed they must be held in con­fi­dence.

Pic­ture: Tay­lar Amonini

Town of Port Hed­land elected mem­bers.

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