Dubbo’s elective representatives have rammed through a motion to take action against one of their own for a breach of the council’s code of conduct and a demand for the councillor to apologise.
Cr Peter Bartley was found in breach of the council’s Code of Conduct adopted in July 2008 in a matter of confidentiality by a conduct review committee.
Last night, by a narrow majority, the council took action against Cr Bartley but councillors Ben Shields and Tina Reynolds vehemently opposed the motion.
The emotional issue that divided council came just one month after Cr Shields was expelled from a council meeting.
It also came on the same night as a motion to call for tenders for the provision of economic development services passed 6-5.
Councillors Shields and Reynolds, along with Ann Barnard, moved a motion to rescind the code of conduct decision before the end of last night’s meeting.
The conduct review committee was called in by Mayor Greg Matthews to investigate an email leaked to the Daily Liberal in January.
Cr Matthews was the author of the email about medical consulting rooms in North Street, Dubbo, at the height of the drama at the departure of doctors George Albert and Baghat Gerges from Dubbo.
Dubbo City Council and the conduct review committee asked the Daily Liberal to divulge its source, but it refused to do so.
The result of the conduct review committee came before councillors last night in a meeting that was originally intended to be a closed meeting, but went to a public hearing.
Councillors Bartley and Matthews left the room at the start of the matter.
Four councillors strenuously opposed a motion by Cr Mutton that Cr Bartley had breached the code of conduct, should be counselled and should apologise to the council.
Cr Shields said the suggested leak, a document, had not appeared on orange paper - a council practice when something was confidential - or with an email password.
The breach of confidentiality case hung on the disclaimer at the bottom of the email that appeared on every council email, from Pastoral Hotel menus to information for the public, he said.
He attempted to have the apology deleted from Cr Mutton’s motion, but lost the vote, 5-4.
Cr Shields claimed the mayor had reported the matter to “stitch up” a councillor who voted against him.
“This group of six is ruling with an iron fist, they’re out of hand and it’s not best for Dubbo,” he said.
“If this was one of the governing six, we would not be in this situation.”
Cr Towney, who took the chair when Cr Matthews left, defended himself against Cr Shields’ claims.
“I vote as I see fit, no one tells me how to vote.”
Cr Mutton said he did not appreciate having to move the motion but had been “extremely upset” when he heard of the leak and wrote to the mayor because he felt it was a code of conduct breach.
His motion also said that the council would not pursue legal advice on the potential breach of a section of the Local Government Act.
It was carried 5-4, with councillors Towney, Smith, Dickerson, Griffiths and Mutton voting yes and councillors Shields, Reynolds, Harris and Barnard voting no.
Earlier in the meeting Cr Reynolds had asked what was the rush in asking for tenders for the provision of economic development services.
There had been no discussion about the matter at recent meetings, she said.
The recommendation was not about Grow Dubbo and could be any organisation, Cr Matthews said, and the motion passed 6-5.