Council divided

What appear to be deep and unedifying divisions within the Mt Barker Council have been exposed by the recent ‘surveillance saga’ which has enveloped the organisation.
Both the deputy Mayor Samantha Jones and fellow councillor David Leach have been found to have breached the standards set by the Local Government Authority (LGA) in relation to this matter.
First, Cr Jones named a ratepayer, whom she believed was undertaking surveillance of her home, in an internal email to 20 councillors and staff despite the subsequent investigation by the LGA finding she had “no objective basis to link him to the event.”
The lack of endeavor by Cr Jones to provide accurate information to the council was deemed a breach of the code.
Cr Leach took it upon himself to ignore the unstated but clearly understood confidentiality of that email and inform the ratepayer of its contents, which was also deemed a breach by not “maintaining a respectful relationship with all council members”.
The investigations into both matters will cost ratepayers almost $22,000.
However the bigger problem was on display at a special meeting last Thursday night when the councillors – minus Crs Jones and Leach – gathered to discuss both matters.
There appears to be a sense of mistrust among councillors, an attitude which does not bode well for good governance in a region which is facing significant expansion issues and needs a cohesive and co-operative council.
Some are of the view that Cr Leach is a divisive figure and his calculated decision to release the contents of the email was done with the knowledge it would cause significant damage.
Others believe Cr Leach was entitled to inform the resident of the accusation made against them in order to allow them to clear their name.
Cr Ian Grosser identified “profound, deep divisions” among council while Cr Narelle Hardingham said the matter made the council look “unprofessional” and went on to indicate the team structure was compromised and that councillors were operating in an atmosphere of mistrust.
It is worth remembering that councils are always made up of differing personalities and egos and the challenge now facing the Mayor, senior staff and the councillors themselves, is to reset and regroup.
It must be remembered the councillors and staff work hard to achieve good things for the community but side issues such as this can push the whole ship off course.
It is frustrating to realise that this whole matter has been entirely self inflicted.Council divided