Will Hodgman

Premier of Tasmania

17 July 2017

Peter Gutwein, Minister for Planning and Local Government

Glenorchy City Council update

Today, I have written to the suspended aldermen of the Glenorchy City Council.  In the interests of transparency, I am publicly releasing the correspondence.

The text of the correspondence is as follows:

I write in reference to your suspension under section 215(5) of the Local Government Act 1993 (the Act), which is due to expire at 12:00 midnight on 8 August 2017.

On 27 January 2017, I wrote to you and outlined a number of concerns that you were invited to comment on and that subsequently led to my decision for your suspension in February 2017. The concerns included:

  • an attempt to amend the General Manager’s contract of employment with variations that went beyond the scope of those sought and authorised by resolution of the Council at its 26 September 2016 meeting, and included proposed variations that had the potential to impose a significant financial burden on the community;
  • complaints lodged with the Director of Local Government regarding alleged non-compliance or breaches of the Act;
  • the alleged disclosure of confidential information which related to a closed session of Council held on 5 December 2016;
  • events and circumstances of the Council’s 12 December 2016 Annual General Meeting (AGM), including concerns of ratepayers who attended the AGM;
  • evidence of hostility at council meetings and in communications between aldermen and senior staff members; and
  • media reports regarding police being called to Council meetings and abusive behaviour from members of the community towards certain aldermen.

Since the time of your suspension, I have not been presented with new facts or information to resolve my concerns that were communicated to you. In addition to those initial concerns, you would be aware of the various media articles that have made claims concerning a number of findings and recommendations purported to be in the second draft report of the Glenorchy City Council Board of Inquiry.

As I do not have a copy of that report, I am unable to form an opinion about those purported findings and recommendations, and therefore they have no bearing on my consideration of a further suspension.

The Mercury newspaper of 28 June 2017 reported high levels of community unrest at the delayed progress of the work of the Board of Inquiry. The Mercury article is consistent with correspondence I have received from members of the Glenorchy community who are concerned about restoring members of the Council back to office before the Board of Inquiry report is finalised.

Until the Board of Inquiry concludes its work and delivers its report to me under section 224 of the Act, I will be not in a position to consider its contents. Once I have received the report, I will invite the Council and aldermen to provide submissions to me on the findings and recommendations contained in the report, as provided for under section 225(1)(b) of the Act. Only after I have received the report, and corresponding submissions from affected parties, will I be in a position to consider the future of the Council.

Until such a time I am minded, in the interests of the Glenorchy community, to consider suspending the aldermen of the Glenorchy City Council for a further period not exceeding six months, in accordance with section 215(5) of the Act.

Before I make such a decision, I invite you to provide me with any submission you care to make as to why I should or should not exercise this power.

I attach for your information a statement of reasons as to why I made the suspension in February 2017. This must be kept confidential as it contains information that was included in papers to the closed Council meeting of 5 December 2016.

Those reasons remain relevant as I consider exercising the power I have under section 215(5) again.

In addition to the matters both set out in the statement of reasons and as recently publicised, by the Mercury in particular, I am informed that the Auditor-General is presently conducting an investigation into the procurement of goods and services by the Glenorchy City Council.

That investigation is pursuant to section 23(d) of the Audit Act 2008 and concerns events occurring prior to suspension of the aldermen, and was only embarked upon by the Auditor-General after the date that the aldermen were suspended.

Should I form the opinion that it is in the interests of the community to suspend the aldermen for a further period of six months, a new period of suspension would occur from the time that the current suspension period expires and aldermen are reinstated to office, that is, following 12:00 midnight on 8 August 2017.

If you wish to make a submission to me, please provide it in writing no later than 12.00 noon, Monday 31 July 2017 by post to GPO Box 123 HOBART TAS 7001 Australia or by email to treasureroffice@dpac.tas.gov.au.

Yours sincerely

Peter Gutwein MP

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