Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Clover Moore hides behind 'Confidentiality'.

If you want to hide a problem it seems the ideal way is to claim 'confidentiality'. I can see this as a perfect way to avoid scrutiny for any politician or business leader in a tight squeeze.

Last night at Council, Moore refused three invitations to brief the Councillors on the sacking/ 'resignation' of former CEO Peter Seamer. In front of a gallery packed with unhappy looking Council staff, the five non-Moore Councillors moved motions and amendments to the Lord Mayor's minute seeking more information about the loss of one of Australia's most respected public administrators including:
  • copy of Peter Seamer's employment contract
  • details of any exit payments (rumoured to be as much as $700,000)
  • details surrounding Seamer's sudden departure.

I moved a motion 'that Council expresses its confidence in Peter Seamer'. This motion was defeated by the Lord Mayor's casting (ie second) vote. No doubt that Clover Moore does not have confidence in Peter Seamer.

After 90 minutes of this stone-walling the non-Moore Councillors had had enough and issued an ultimatum to the Lord Mayor. Talk too us about what happened or we walk out of this meeting until you compromise. By withdrawing from the meeting the five non-Moore Councillors effectively withdrew the legal quorum for the meeting to continue, forcing it to adjourn for a maximum 30 minutes and if not reconvened the meeting would be aborted. This action was not taken lightly and it was the first time since elected that any Councillor had 'walked' out of the meeting. It threatened to derail 30 items of major Council business and the outcome was in Clover Moore's hands. Clover Moore accused the Councillors from organsied political parties of ganging up on her. It should be noted that when ever party endorsed Councillors oppose Clover Moore they are major political parties ganging up on her 'independents' - the latter a group of Moore politicians noted for voting as a block 99.9% of the time.

After 15 minutes of tension a contrite Lord Mayor sought a compromise meeting with the five Councillors. In private she agreed to seek further independent written legal advise on whether she can discuss the Peter Seamer departure with the Councillors.

With a few minutes to spare the meeting reconvened and Moore accepted a resolution that she would seek that legal opinion and report back to Councillors. I rearranged the Council agenda and much of the lost time was made up by moving question time to the end of the night.

The Council meeting concluded at 1145pm after three anti-Howard IR motions were back-slappingly passed by the 9 left wing Councillors with one opposition Liberal voice - but more on that later.

From today's SMH coverage:

Furious councillors demand answers over resignation
By Sherrill Nixon Urban Affairs EditorApril 11, 2006
FIVE councillors forced an abrupt but short-lived end to the City of Sydney's council meeting last night when they walked out over Lord Mayor Clover Moore's refusal to explain why her chief executive resigned.
The councillors - three Labor, one Liberal and one Green - refused to participate in the meeting any further unless Cr Moore released Peter Seamer's exit contract and any associated confidentiality agreement.
The walkout occurred after about 90 minutes of fiery debate over whether Cr Moore should reveal the circumstances that led to Mr Seamer's sudden resignation a week ago.
But after 15 minutes of frantic negotiations, the Lord Mayor enticed the dissident councillors back by promising to seek legal advice on what information she could release on his departure. The opposition councillors, who believe Mr Seamer's resignation was forced by Cr Moore, had argued that the council could not be considered accountable if the circumstances remained secret.
"The secret surrounding Mr Seamer's departure has been absolutely astonishing, especially given the Lord Mayor's views on openness and transparency of government," said the Deputy Mayor, Labor's Verity Firth.
Mr Seamer was the second CEO to walk out of the job in less than two years, raising concerns about Cr Moore's management style.
The Liberal councillor, Shayne Mallard, said: "It smells of a cover-up. It smells of hiding something from us all."
Cr Moore described the walkout as the "ugly face of party politics" being played out by councillors who failed in their lord mayoral campaign.
"If you do decide to walk out I think you are walking away from your elected responsibilities and it is quite shameful," she said.
After the meeting resumed, Cr Moore announced a review of the council's decision-making processes, in part prompted by a planning error by council staff last month in which an illegal building was included in a plan for the former Water Police site at Pyrmont.

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