4:34pm Sunday, 18 March BlueMountainsAustralia.com
Blue Mountains News
Blue Mountains Council Makes Strong Case Against Suspension
Mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill, said, “Again, I believe there is no basis upon which the Minister may properly suspend the elected body of the Council. The Council’s submission makes a strong case to address the Minister concerns and shows that there are no grounds to remove the Council.”
The Minister issued the notice after suggestions of a conflict of interest emerged in relation to the Council’s independent investigation into asbestos management. The notice was issued to the Council by the Minister the day after this matter was raised in certain media commentary.
The Minister has also called into question the Council’s capacity to address the matters confronting it, claiming the Council failed to "adopt" processes that were "robust" when establishing the independent investigation.
The Mayor said the Minister is incorrect.
“The specific, proper and formal conflict of interest process was followed and the engagement of the independent investigator, Mr Michael Tooma, proceeded specifically on that basis.
Would I have preferred that I knew this association with a former staff member? Yes, but Mr Tooma is a senior and experienced solicitor. He is recognised across Australia as an expert on work, health and safety law and practice. I acknowledge his undoubted professional opinion that no conflict exists and that he acted in good faith.”
“To make absolutely sure we did everything right, the Council commissioned a further review of its due diligence processes by a separate law firm Maddock’s this week following the media commentary”, said the Mayor. “Maddocks has confirmed the appropriateness of the steps taken.”
“In answer to the Minister’s question of whether we had a robust process in place to address the conflict of interest, the answer is yes we did. To the broader question of should the elected Council be held to account for what we did not know, the answer is no, it should not.”
“This is especially the case when we formally asked the right questions as part of a robust process”, the Mayor said.
“The Minister stands ready and willing to end democratic government for a period of up to six months, based on inadequate information and, in one very material respect, inaccurate information.
This is disappointing particularly when we could have addressed her concerns with a phone call or letter clearly demonstrating that the right and proper process was taken.”
The Mayor said the Council has received the first interim report on the independent asbestos investigation.
“The recommendations confirm that Mr Tooma's report does not adversely mention the elected Councillors as the governing body of the Council.
The recommendations identify the need for significant improvements in the policies and procedures of the Council. These are matters that we are currently addressing.”
The Mayor acknowledged that there have been organisational failures in relation to matters of asbestos management but says the Council has acted diligently, and continues to act, to address all identified issues on behalf of our workers and community.
“Safety is our highest priority”, he said. “There is nothing more important than ensuring the safety of our workforce and our community.”
“We have said all along, if mistakes have been made we want to know how they happened and to learn from them. If anything has not been managed properly we want it fixed. That is exactly what we are doing”, the Mayor said.
“Suspending a democratically elected body is a really big step, especially on a matter as important as asbestos management”, the Mayor said.
“I trust that the Minister will rely on the robust processes available to her when considering our submission.”
The Council has 7 days to respond to the Notice.
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