Too close for comfort?
Mayor defends meeting in Cannonvale cafe
JUST one day after her council was referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission over issues relating to the proposed Chinatown development on Waterson Way, Whitsunday Mayor Jennifer Whitney and her acting CEO, Barry Omundson, met with the Chinese businessman behind the project in a Cannonvale cafe.
China Australia Entrepreneurs Association Inc president Raymond Wang was accompanied by his interpreter Simon Phang and Cr Whitney and Mr Omundson were accompanied by the council’s cultural communications officer, Cherry Cai.
Cr Whitney has been in the spotlight for declaring a conflict of interest over the project and stepping out of council meetings when decisions on Chinatown are made.
But when asked if, under these circumstances, she considered last Thursday’s meeting inappropriate, Cr Whitney said emphatically, “no”.
“We did meet with the Chinese and we met in public... because we’re open, accountable and transparent... we’ve got nothing to hide,” she said.
Cr Whitney said the discussion was not over Waterson Way but about building relationships because, “I don’t want to see these people walk away when the business community is crying out for development”.
She said part of her job was to meet with business people. “And I believe the majority of our ratepayers and community know that for us to be able to provide job opportunities for our youth and for our people, Council has to be more strategic and work with investors,” she said, adding that “the people reading more into this – they may have bad morals and values (but) I certainly don’t”.
Meanwhile, Mr Omundson said council’s legal advice affirmed “we’re doing everything we need to be”.
PUBLIC MEETING: Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Jennifer Whitney (centre) with acting CEO Barry Omundson, Simon Phang, Raymond Wang and Council's cultural communications officer Cherry Cai at a Cannonvale restaurant on Thursday morning.