Mclean mayor, Hooper resigns
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.
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