A Council watchers delight

Following on with the post from last week the BR is now going to watch carefully for the slow moving train of confusion. We do know that this topic, even if dropped by the Mayor after reading the tea-leaves, will not go silently into the night.

If one goes to the 1hr30.20min mark of the last Council meeting youtube video – click here to open, of the proceedings a couple of unusual things happen. Firstly when the Notice of Motion (to ask the Integrity Commissioner to investigate a leak of information from a closed meeting) is introduced, the Mayor is in the Chair and cannot move the motion, the Deputy Mayor refuses to move it. “I am not comfortable moving this motion”. So Councillor Darling moves it. Two members of Council – the Deputy Mayor and Cllr. Chorley refuse to vote and abstain from the vote. It passes after Cllr Beatty gets an amendment changing the date of the discussion at the next CoW to the combined meeting in August.

So on to August it will be. Cllr Beatty, when asked by the BR why she voted for the motion she replied, “we need a decision!”, she also refused to comment further until after the discussion. When asked if the Mayor had asked her if she leaked she confirmed other reports that made it clear that the Mayor has not asked any member of Council if they leaked, and also stated that she had not heard of a leak; as have others on Council. So where is the evidence?

In another related matter let’s put a rumour to bed – kill it off! The presumed subject of the June 3rd closed meeting, we say “presumed” because the announced hiring of Mr Sarmiento as the “Artistic and Creative Consultant” was announced shortly before the meeting discussed “the hiring of a contract employee” and was rumoured to have been hired at an outrageous salary. So the BR asked the Town for the salary range that this employee was placed in. The answer came in an email from the Town Clerk.However another wrinkle emerged in this. The creation of this position was done completely without direct knowledge of Council. It was deemed to be a “staff hiring” by the CAO, even the Coordinator of the portfolio – Cllr Bureau did not know before the hiring that it was planned. Council was informed by email on May 20th and the press release, announcing the hiring was issued May 21st. The closed meeting took place June 3rd, presumably because some of Council wanted to discuss the hired individual.

As to how the position was going to be covered off in the budget, the salary would be covered by the rest of the year’s budget from an empty position – the former Concert Hall Manager had left his position a couple of months ago (in again rumoured dubious circumstances) and a rejigging of existing funds would allow the hiring of a consultant to review and write a report that would layout the future activities of the Concert Hall. But as Mr Sarmiento has announced a series of Tribute Band concerts, it appears that the mandate may have been expanded.

So as Council watchers where do we go from here? Some members of Council want to clear the air, as Cllr Burchat told the BR “I have nothing to hide, investigate it!” Cllr. Bureau told the BR that he voted for it “So that I can debate it, I have some issues with it!” But more prudent people may not. After all, will the exercise be a prelude to punishment for the leaker which would lead to more acrimony, or should the whole affair be downplayed and become a healing operation. This doesn’t look like the start of a teambuilding exercise.

Monday 8th July:

Some advice in the form of a quote from Simon Jenkins of the “The Guardian” newspaper. He writes about the proposed investigation into the UK’s Ambassador’s remarks about Trump. “Leak inquiries, like that now ordered into the Darroch memorandum, are Whitehall’s most fatuous blood sport. They seldom find culprits and serve merely to magnify the original embarrassment.”

Perhaps Mayor Henderson might heed this advice!

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