Councillors’ behaviour under question

CITY of Greater Dandenong councillors are restricting transparency and behaving badly, according to Dandenong North resident Kim Reid.
Ms Reid raised concerns about councillor behaviour with Mayor Angela Long and CEO John Bennie after attending her first council meeting on 29 January.
“Discussion of agenda items had apparently occurred before the meeting in a briefing, leaving the meeting itself merely a matter of process,” she said.
“As a ratepayer it made me think that my money could possibly be better spent by administrators performing this role, rather than elected representatives.”
But Ms Reid said councillor behaviour was her main concern.
“Councillors sniggered and talked across the room to each other while another councillor held the floor,” she said.
She again contacted Cr Long and Mr Bennie following the 11 February meeting, which she watched via webcast.
“I again heard inappropriate comments made by councillors not holding the floor,” she said.
“I was also shocked that there was a large contingent of councillors that voted for a motion to restrict public questions, with talk of turning off the webcast and requiring those asking questions to be in the gallery.
“I was unable to attend the meeting as I have a small child. I am sure there are a number of residents that are in a similar situation.
“Residents’ right to ask questions of council and have them appropriately answered or redirected should be protected.”
Greater Dandenong CEO John Bennie said the council welcomed public questions at meetings, but said residents could receive a more efficient response by contacting the council’s customer service staff or using its website, Facebook or Twitter.
He said the Meeting Procedure Local Law governed public question time at council meetings.
“All questions raised as a public question at a council meeting are answered and both the question and the answer are included in the minutes on the council’s website,” he said.
“If the question is taken on notice, then a written response will be sent after the meeting and that response will also be included on the council’s website.”
Mr Bennie also said that the reasonable governance of council meetings might result in not every question being read and answered within the actual meeting itself.
The council is currently reviewing the full Meeting Procedure Local Law and a draft of the revised law will be advertised for public comment once complete.
Mr Bennie said a code of conduct defined behaviour standards for councillors and staff, and it will also be reviewed this year adding “At the meeting in question it is my assessment that there was no departure from the code of conduct.”