Mansfield Courier

Alleged bias and leaked email mars report findings

MACE claims council bias following independen­t report in ongoing community shed saga

- By SHAUN McMAHON

AT the recent Mansfield Shire Council meeting a significan­t amount of time was allocated to the discussion of the lease of Mansfield’s Community Shed facilities in Erril Street.

The emotive meeting contained assertions of bias in the independen­t report provided to council and allegation­s of a leaked confidenti­al email.

Council outlined their stance on the matter and urged MACE to honour the intent of the original Memorandum of Understand­ing and for the two groups to come up with a solution together rather than relying on council to make a decision.

Council’s position was formed following receipt of an independen­t report completed by Des Dunn.

Mr Dunn is a Merrijig resident, a former property valuer and real estate agent, and a well-regarded community member who stood for council at the most recent election.

The meeting saw three board members from MACE and three representa­tives from the Men’s Shed detail points of view in support of their contention­s as to why they should prevail in the ongoing dispute.

All three of MACE’s board members disagreed with aspects of Mr Dunn’s report, which were detailed diplomatic­ally and succinctly by chief executive officer (CEO) Kylie Richards and president Janene Ridley.

The fireworks began when MACE board member Murray Chenery, who has a background in marketing and brand management, gave his statement.

“We’ve clearly shown that the community shed is an asset of MACE,” said Mr Chenery.

“We would like to think that council takes a balanced view of this situation.

“At a recent meeting with the mayor and CEO, MACE was assured that the report from Mr Dunn would be objective, however, we are very concerned that it is not objective.

“We have obtained an email from the Mansfield council to Mr Dunn dated July 27 this year where Mr Dunn is instructed to, and I quote, ‘recommend that council provide MACE with notice of council’s intention not to renew the lease or terminate’.

“This email further states, and I quote, ‘a report be presented along these lines to the September council meeting’.

“We are extremely disappoint­ed that the report’s outcomes were already predetermi­ned.

“This bias instructio­n shakes the foundation of council and calls into question the core values of integrity and respect.”

Mr Chenery then recited council’s core values verbatim, reminding councillor­s that they commit to these at the start of every meeting, and they should question the efficacy of this report.

“In the spirit of MACE being open, transparen­t and cooperativ­e, here’s a way forward for all parties,” said Mr Chenery, before outlining MACE’s position and running over the allocated time for his statement, while Mayor Mark Holcombe called repeatedly for his conclusion.

Cr Stephen Rabie thanked Mr Chenery for his statement.

“I’ve noted that you said MACE is an open and transparen­t group, so my question to you is how did you receive an email that was confidenti­al for council?” asked Cr Rabie.

“It was given to us as part of the investigat­ion,” replied Mr Chenery.

“By whom?” “I would rather not say.” “But you’re saying you’re open and transparen­t...”

Cr Holcombe interjecte­d, noting that they would follow up on how this had occurred.

Deputy mayor James Tehan thanked Mr Chenery for his reminder and assured him that council would make an unbiased and open decision, before thanking all speakers and Mr Dunn for his report.

“I think it’s a good report, it’s very balanced and covers both sides of the argument very well,” said Cr Tehan.

Cr Rabie also thanked Mr Dunn for a thorough and balanced report.

“I find this fairly distastefu­l, as a member of the community,” said Cr Rabie.

“But as a councillor having to judge an agreement between MACE and the Men’s Shed, you should have been able to work this out yourselves.”

Cr Rohan Webb mirrored his fellow councillor’s comments.

“This has gotten completely out of hand, and it’s disappoint­ing that it’s come to us at council,” said Cr Webb.

“Both parties can’t see the bigger picture and work for the overall benefit of the community.

“There’s a lot of mud in the water, historical and communicat­ion issues, which are in the past.

“You’ve got the opportunit­y now to put your heads together and come up with a solution that benefits the community, and not either one of your organisati­ons, because ultimately you both exist for the community as a whole, not a small sub-sect, but the entire community.”

Cr Paul Sladdin, who’s had and continues to have varied involvemen­t with both MACE and the Men’s Shed, was excused from the meeting due to a prevailing conflict of interest.

Cr Holcombe concluded and similarly thanked Mr Dunn for his work, noting he thought it was a balanced view.

“I totally refute the accusation­s made against the integrity of this council, of which I’m a part and take really seriously, and any breaches of the code of conduct, I totally refute that as well,” said Cr Holcombe.

“I think we do have an issue perhaps with leaking of documents, and we will follow that up as an organisati­on to whatever length is necessary to get a result, because that is unacceptab­le.”

A further report is due to council in two months’ time should MACE and the Men’s Shed not resolve the dispute between themselves, at which time council will make a final decision on the matter.

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