Mclean mayor, Hooper re­signs

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY SARAH SCULLY

Ararat Ru­ral City coun­cil­lor Jo Arm­strong has con­firmed she will re­main on the coun­cil fol­low­ing a dra­matic may­oral elec­tion last week that re­sulted in the res­ig­na­tion of out­go­ing mayor Paul Hooper.

Crs Hooper and Arm­strong walked out of the coun­cil cham­ber mid-meet­ing after Cr Glenda Mclean won the elec­tion with four votes.

Mr Hooper re­signed the fol­low­ing morn­ing, with Cr Arm­strong say­ing im­me­di­ately after the meet­ing she would ‘sleep on it’ be­fore de­cid­ing her next move.

“I’m in­cred­i­bly sad­dened for our com­mu­nity,” she said at the time.

“Ev­ery­thing that we’ve gone through with the com­mis­sion of in­quiry and the ev­i­dence of re­ally poor gov­er­nance from mainly a few coun­cil­lors, cul­mi­nat­ing in what’s hap­pened tonight, I’m just so sad for the faith the com­mu­nity has put into elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

“Democ­racy is a great thing but gra­cious me. Peo­ple get who they vote for – look at who we’ve voted for and look who we’ve got.”

Cr Arm­strong told The Weekly Ad­ver­tiser yes­ter­day she had de­cided not to re­sign at this stage.

“I have made a de­ci­sion to con­tinue to serve my com­mu­nity and to act with in­tegrity, which is the cen­tral tenet of the coun­cil­lor code of con­duct,” she said.

Dur­ing the may­oral nom­i­na­tion process, Cr Arm­strong asked the chair­man, coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Al­lan Baw­den, whether it was ‘dila­tory’ to nom­i­nate Cr Mclean con­sid­er­ing she was sub­ject to code of con­duct pro­ceed­ings.

Mr Baw­den said although there was ‘no bar­rier to Cr Mclean nom­i­nat­ing, good gov­er­nance would nor­mally sug­gest mat­ters such as that should be put be­hind you when seek­ing such an of­fice’.

Cr Mclean voted for her­self and was sup­ported by Crs Dar­ren Ford, Gwenda All­good and David Pettman.

Crs Arm­strong and Hooper voted for Cr Hooper to serve another term as mayor, while Cr Peter Beales self­nom­i­nated and voted for him­self.

The packed gallery was vo­cal upon Cr Mclean’s elec­tion, with many voic­ing dis­be­lief at the re­sult.

She also had sup­port in the room, with some mem­bers re­act­ing with ap­plause.

As Cr Mclean took the chair, Cr Arm­strong ex­cused her­self.

“I can’t par­tic­i­pate in this meet­ing with the elec­tion of Cr Mclean as mayor at this point in time,” she said.

“I have re­ally se­ri­ous con­cerns about the gov­er­nance in this coun­cil and I think the sup­port for Cr Mclean fol­low­ing the com­mis­sion of in­quiry flies in the face of the com­mu­nity’s trust.”

Sev­eral gallery mem­bers par­tic­i­pated in the walk­out, voic­ing their dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the re­sult.

Sup­port

Cr Mclean re­mained stoic de­spite the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing her ap­point­ment and thanked her sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing the com­mu­nity mem­bers who backed her dur­ing the com­mis­sion of in­quiry process.

“I think it would be fair to say un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances I would be stand­ing here thank­ing the de­part­ing mayor Paul Hooper, who I be­lieve has ac­quit­ted him­self ef­fec­tively as mayor for many years in this coun­cil,” she said.

“He has achieved a lot for mak­ing our pres­ence known in the broader com­mu­nity aside the Ararat mu­nic­i­pal­ity and in the cor­ri­dors of power.

“To that ex­tent I am grate­ful for the con­tri­bu­tion he has made, sup­ported ably by the pre­vi­ous coun­cil, in par­tic­u­lar re­tired coun­cil­lors no longer with us, but in this room.”

Cr Mclean spoke about the dif­fi­cult time coun­cil­lors, coun­cil staff and the com­mu­nity had been through in the past year, in­clud­ing con­tro­ver­sial pro­posed changes to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s rat­ing strat­egy, which led to a state gov­ern­ment com­mis­sion of in­quiry.

“There’s a lot of pain and hurt out there and I cer­tainly felt it from April on­wards with the sort of let­ters sent in by the farm­ing com­mu­nity,” she said.

“I’m a proud farm­ing per­son my­self. I know how farm­ers think and work.

“I was dis­traught to re­ceive those sorts of let­ters as a coun­cil­lor when I felt I was try­ing to do the right thing.

“A lot of mis­takes have been made, as has been pointed out by the Min­is­ter for Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment – a lot of hurt and pain in the way the de­lib­er­a­tion oc­curred.

“There are so many lessons for coun­cil ad­min­is­tra­tion and coun­cil­lors to take on board and move for­ward in re­gard to our fu­ture op­por­tu­ni­ties to serve the com­mu­nity bet­ter.

“I be­lieve there is good­will in the staff and I be­lieve the strength and ex­per­tise of our mu­nic­i­pal mon­i­tor Janet Dore and our chief ex­ec­u­tive Al­lan Baw­den will take us through this dif­fi­cult pe­riod in the next cou­ple of years.”

EL­E­VATED: Ararat Ru­ral City deputy mayor Gwenda All­good and mayor Glenda Mclean. Pic­ture: SARAH SCULLY

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