Renee Ellis was dismissed as a City of Greater Geraldton councillor this week. What follows are the reasons given, and the drama that has transpired since.
To follow the story, it’s important to understand the difference between the following two terms for when a councillor misses a council meeting.
They are “Leave of Absence” and “Apology”.
Leave of Absence: This is when a councillor has sought permission to be away, and permission has been granted by their peers. A motion is put forward at a meeting that the person is requesting a “leave of absence”, and all the councillors vote on it.
Apology: This is when a councillor is simply away from the meeting, but has not formally been granted permission to be away. It’s not unusual, but is not desirable. If a councillor has three apologies at three consecutive meetings against their name, the CEO is required to issue a dismissal notice to that councillor.
On Monday of this week, City of Greater Geraldton Councillor Renee Ellis was issued a notice of disqualification by CGG CEO Ken Diehm. Mr Diehm was of the belief that Ms Ellis had three apologies earlier in the year, for the March, April and May meetings, and therefore issued the notice.
But Ms Ellis is claiming that the matter is not as cut and dry as Mr Diehm and the CGG are making out. She did indeed miss all three of those meetings, but argues that at least one of them should have been counted as a “Leave of Absence” and not an “Apology”.
And this is where things get murky.
Ms Ellis did in fact complete an application form for a “Leave of Absence” for the April meeting. And she sent the completed form to the office of the CEO.
That form was never presented to council to vote on.
Why wasn't the form presented to Council?
The reason it wasn’t presented to council was due to the City of Greater Geraldton Guidelines that stipulate that a “leave of absence” must be approved at the meeting prior to the absence; that is to say, you cannot ask for a leave of absence at the meeting you plan on missing. The guideline states: “Any leave of absence approved by Council can only apply to subsequent meetings. Therefore, leave of absence cannot be granted for the ordinary Council meeting at which approval is given.”
But, according to the Local Government Act, you can apply for a leave of absence at the meeting you intend on missing. Thus it appears the CGG guidelines don’t line up with the Act.
Section 2.25 of the act
Part: (3A) Leave is not to be granted in respect of —
(a) a meeting that has concluded; or
(b) the part of a meeting before the granting of leave.
The act seems to imply that a Leave of Absence can be granted for the part of the meeting following the motion for a leave of absence being approved.
Ms Ellis also completed a leave of application dated 25th of May to the 20th of June, while noting she would be an apology for the meeting on the 24th of May. This submission was not dated from the 24th of May due to the advice given Ms Ellis at the time from the CEO's office, based on the CGG Guidelines. It's arguable that had the city's guidelines matched the Act, Ms Ellis may have dated her application as being from the 24th.
Notwithstanding the discrepancy between the CGG guidelines and the legislation, legal advice obtained by CGG CEO Mr Ken Diehm stated that if the motion for a “leave of absence” was never voted on and approved by councillors, then Ms Ellis did not have a “leave of absence”, ergo she has three “apologies” in a row and should be dismissed.
It should be noted that Ms Ellis was also an "apology" for the preceding March meeting.
Unfortunately, it gets even murkier.
Despite Ms Ellis’ application for a “leave of absence” never being presented to council at the April meeting, in the minutes of the meeting Ms Ellis was noted as a “Leave of Absence”, not as an “Apology”.
At the following meeting in May, those minutes were all voted on as a “true and correct record of proceedings”.
So at the time it was not picked up on that Ms Ellis (then Cr Ellis) was an apology for three meetings in a row.
Ms Ellis was an "apology" for the May CGG council meeting.
Fast forward to the September council meeting. Renee Ellis was also an “apology” for this meeting.
At the September meeting a motion was put forward concerning the performance of Cr Ellis. The discussion of the motion was held behind closed doors, so the press and the public were not able to hear what transpired, or even what the motion originally stated. We officially know what the final motion that passed states, although we have had several people inform Everything Geraldton that the motion that passed was somewhat diluted compared to the original motion that was tabled.
The motion that was passed concerning Cr Ellis states as follows:
MOVED REYMOND, SECONDED TANTI
That Council by Simple Majority RESOLVES to:
1. EXPRESS that it is losing confidence in Cr Ellis due to her lack of attendance;
2. CALL on Cr Ellis to improve attendance and/or to reconsider her position on Council;
3. MAKES the determination on the following grounds:
a. To ensure ratepayers are represented by Councillors in accordance with community expectations.
The motion passed 10/0, voted for by all who were present:
Mayor Van Styn
As you can see, Cr Michael Reymond moved a motion that expressed that council is “losing” confidence in Cr Ellis for the reasons of ratepayers not getting what they expected.
Note that while the motion is certainly quite serious, it does not call for Cr Ellis to be dismissed.
Following on from this motion, dialogue between Cr Ellis and the CEO’s office opened, looking into Cr Ellis’ absences. This led to the discovery of three “apologies” in a row from March, April and May 2016 and the ensuing dismissal of Renee Ellis.
So while they are indirectly connected, there are two matters that have transpired:
1. A motion of “losing confidence” toward Cr Ellis.
2. The dismissal of Cr Ellis based on three apologies from earlier in the year.
Regarding the issue of her dismissal, Ms Ellis believes she should not have had three strikes against her name, and that at least one of her “apologies” is because of an administrative error on the part of the CEO Ken Diehm.
Regarding the motion of “Losing Confidence”, Ms Ellis is of the strong opinion that the motion was crafted and put forward in an attempt to undermine her for political reasons. This week it was announced at a gathering that Ms Ellis was a Labor candidate for the upper house (Legislative Council) in the upcoming WA state elections.
Unarguably, these are strong claims. So Everything Geraldton spoke with some of the parties involved in order to present their arguments to the wider public. Author comments are in bold, interviewee comments italicised.
Labor MLC (Member of the Legislative Council) Darren West expressed outrage at the news of Ms Ellis’ dismissal, calling it an “act of political bastardry”.
Darren West speaking:
The meetings in question were six months ago. During that time Renee was struggling with a very difficult time in her life. She sought leave for one meeting. On the second meeting she sought compassionate leave. I thought this might have given a few councillors a clue that something was going on. She was concerned about how she might perform at council meetings, and she sought leave in accordance with the local government act, as amended in 2009. Council guidelines don’t reflect this change in 2009. The council guidelines have not been updated since the changes. But the law’s the law. This administrative bungle lies with the CEO. The CEO did not present that leave request to council on behalf of Councillor Ellis. The act says you can do it, the guidelines say you can’t.
Now it’s hypothetical whether council would have granted it, but I’ve done a search through past minutes. (A leave of absence request) has never been denied, I can’t find an example.
Presuming from that, had the leave request been presented to council, you could make a reasonable assumption that leave would have been granted.
The fault lies with the CEO. Rather than say “I’ve made a mistake and will refer this to SAT for a ruling”, he has served the notice on Councillor Ellis. I believe he has been pressured to take that course of action.
Who do you think has placed pressure on him?
I don’t know, but the week she pops up as Labor’s candidate this happens. The CEO finds himself in an unenviable situation, in a politically charged environment, in my view.
The legal advice we have seen that was provided to the CEO says he is obligated to serve the notice of dismissal if he has reason to believe Ms Ellis has three apologies in a row.
The key words are “if he is of the belief”. I find it bemusing… that the CEO is the person at fault by his inaction to instruct the Mayor to table a leave request to council.
Further, Cr Ellis is listed as “Leave of Absence” in the minutes. Not an “Apology”. That’s significant. Because had she known she was actually an apology for the April meeting, that may have influenced her decision to attend the May meeting.
We are very keen to clear her name, because she has done nothing wrong. The smear on her professional reputation is unwarranted, unfair, an unjust.
She now has to prove herself innocent through the appeals process. She’s guilty until proven innocent, as a result of the CEO’s bungling administration, and she will appeal.
Have you read the press release from the City of Greater Geraldton regarding the matter?
They couldn’t even be gracious in that. It paints Cr Ellis as having done something wrong. It is purely 100% a political smear and a witch hunt.
The Council has become extremely politicised. We believe this never would have happened in years past. It’s a disgrace. It’s outrageous.
Regarding the motion of Losing Confidence at the September meeting:
A councillor moved a motion of no confidence. The CEO and 5 councillors were absent, and the motion was debated behind closed doors. What’s going on?
Cr Raymond moved the motion, and it was watered down to “losing” confidence, due to lack of attendance. It was supported by all 10 councillors. It’s outrageous that debate was held behind closed doors.
This is the City of Perth all over again. It’s outrageous, unfair, and it lacks common decency. (Ms Ellis) had no voice. She had court (Ms Ellis is a lawyer).
(Debating the motion) without her having the right to respond is gutless. The Mayor, in my view, could have deferred that motion.
I think the council has a problem with women, it’s become a boys club, and it’s very, very conservative and targets those with progressive views.
In 2014 Cr Van Styn (now the Mayor) missed 4 meetings. In 2013 when he ran for parliament he missed 5 meetings. There were no votes of no confidence despite him missing more meetings than Cr Ellis.
But the point is, Cr Ellis has had to deal with a very difficult set of circumstances. She needed support, instead she’s been hung out to dry. And that is very sad.
Ken Diehm is the CEO for the City of Greater Geraldton. A CEO (Chief Executive Officer) is not elected by the public, but employed by the Councillors to run the City. He spoke to Everything Geraldton regarding the matter.
Are you of the opinion that it was your own mistake that has caused this to be an issue?
The guidelines … have been practiced for many many years. Those guidelines reflect the mood of the council.
The guidelines are more rigid than the legislation. I accept that.
Mr Diehm explained that the application form includes the guidelines on it.
Those guidelines were brought to Renee’s attention.
Mr Diehm said Ms Ellis had confirmed that she knew her application for a "Leave of Absence" for the April meeting would not be presented to council.
She acknowledged that it would not be presented to council.
We asked if he would continue to not present Leave of Absence requests to council if they applied for the upcoming meeting, as per existing council guidelines.
In the future when the leave application is received, I will provide it to council in the next meeting it applies to.
Regarding the April meeting minutes that actually state Cr Ellis as a “Leave of Absence”, Mr Diehm said it only had the mistake in the “preamble to the minutes proper”.
Cr Ellis is well aware that consideration was not recorded in the meetings, (and that the) application was not considered by the council. There was no resolution.
It was an administrative error, I’ll take responsibility for that.
Is it fair to consider that Ms Ellis could have thought that she was recorded as a “Leave of Absence” rather than an “Apology”?
I don’t think so, because she was told it would be considered as an apology.
Why did your press release not include information about Council Guidelines not matching the act, and the administration now retrospectively going back and changing the minutes?
If Ms Ellis had no understanding of the guidelines, and solely relied on the act I would agree with you. She had confirmed her understanding by email, that it wouldn’t be considered, and she’s had discussions with my office providing the same advice.
Do I think it’s fair? It’s not a matter whether I think it’s fair or not. I have an obligation as CEO (to issue the notice of dismissal). This hasn’t come out of the blue with Renee. I’ve been liaising with Renee for the last few days.
Renee’s options that are open to her are to advise me in writing if she is not disqualified and the reasons why, alternatively she can apply to SAT (State Administrative Tribunal).
Could you have referred the matter to SAT rather than dismiss Cr Ellis?
My legal advice said I had an obligation (to dismiss Ms Ellis). It was irrelevant with respect to my determination.
It’s being alleged that this is politically motivated. Has there been any pressure on you from third parties regarding this matter?
I can unequivocally say there’s been no pressure applied on me from any party to take any course of action. While these circumstances are unfortunate, I have no choice.
Renee’s options are to accept, or provide reasons why she believes she was not disqualified, or apply to SAT for a determination.
Why have you not acted sooner (regarding the dismissal)?
Council passed a resolution due to her lack of attendance.
As a result of that resolution, my office reviewed her attendance, and discovered she had missed 3 missed meetings in a row, and 5 of the last 7 ordinary council meetings.
Once I was made aware of that, I was legally bound to provide a notice of disqualification of the Act.
I’ll take responsibility for failing to pick that up. We’ll make sure our staff are more vigilant in the future.
In terms of do I think it’s fair? I think it’s totally irrelevant. I'm required to act impartially. The local government Act requires me to act.
It does not allow you any discretion to take into account extenuating circumstances, or Renee’s personal circumstances.
That’s why the matter is best left to SAT should Renee disagree with the notice that has been provided.
Has this ever happened before, where a councillor is dismissed for lack of attendance?
To my knowledge, there has not been in recent history (an instance) where a councillor has had to be disqualified for consecutive absences at council meetings.
We spoke to Renee Ellis about her dismissal as councillor.
Mr Diehm claims you were aware you would be marked as an apology for the meeting in question, were advised of that by email, and responded to the effect that you understood this as well. If that’s the case, should you have been aware that the following apology was going to be a third strike?
The whole issue is that when I was asking for their support and advice, “How do I get through this, what do I do?”, they said “Do this form” and that’s basically that, even though I’ve applied for leave 3 weeks before the meeting.
In my time of need, they said "you’re all good Renee". I’ve done everything they’ve said.
I’d been a councillor about three months at that stage.
I said “I take my roll very seriously. I have to go through this process of grief. Can you help me, what can I do?”
They advised me “This is how you do it. And you do it in this way.” If they’d had said, “If you do this now, it will be three apologies” instead of putting it through as a request for leave as they should have... I’ve done everything in accordance with the way I’ve been told. In accordance with the act, they should have put my request in front of council.
Were Ken’s hands tied (in terms of issuing the dismissal notice)?
I think there’s a grey area there. I think that he knew I had got incorrect advice. Council, even though they haven’t marked me as being on leave, in the minutes they have endorsed it as a true and correct record.
Did you know you it (the April "Leave of Absence" request) wasn’t put as a motion ?
I went on the advice I was given at the time, from the office of the CEO. And the CEO failed to put it to council.
His alternative was to apply to SAT. He didn’t have to disqualify me. He could have gone to SAT.
Couldn’t you do that now?
It’s been recommended that the City (of Greater Geraldton) pay for my legal representation because they’ve made so many errors.
Do you plan on going to SAT?
At this stage, Yes.
Are you confident on a result in your favour?
(There’s been) no fault of my own, and with the mistake of the office of the CEO, I think it’s manifestly unfair.
Whether or not I’m successful, there will be a review of process by SAT, and a policy decision will come out of it. So it won’t be in vain.
And what we’re expecting is that there will be discussions with the Minister about this. There have been discussion with the Shadow Minister and the Dept of Local Government, and I have no doubt that this decision will come under intense scrutiny.
It is an administrative bungle.
You’ve been away a lot though.
I would have had leave appropriately for two meetings, and apologies for three.
In 2013 the mayor had missed as many meetings as me. I think he had leave, but he had a big chunk as well.
When he took leave for federal parliament, that was ok, but when I took leave on compassionate grounds, I get raked over the coals.
They told the councillors that the Mayor had had a one on one. The Mayor never had a one on one with me. A true leader would have pulled me aside and had a discussion with me. But they’ve done it this way. But they didn’t do it to Shane. They did it to Renee, the Labor candidate.
What’s your relationship like with other councillors?
I thought it was quite good. But I’m very disappointed to hear that the Mayor encouraged councillors to vote for the recent motion. I'm very disappointed.
If you go to SAT, and you get reinstated, will you resume your duties with no love lost?
I would be honoured. That’s why I was elected by the people of Willcock.
I stand up for the underdog, and social issues. And I’m one the few that do. The council currently are very conservative. This motion came about, it’s sort of weird and uncanny, the same week I was announced as a labor candidate.
Are you asserting it was politically motivated?
Yes. No doubt.
I can tell you that as soon as that motion became public, within half an hour Paul Brown tweeted it, and the mayor and Paul Brown were together that day.
(Note: Paul Brown is a current Nationals state upper house member (MLC) and running for the Lower House in the upcoming state election. The tweet incorrectly states the motion was one of "no confidence" when the motion was that of "losing confidence". The tweet appeared approximately 3 hours after the September council meeting minutes were made public.)
They were looking for an opportunity to attack me.
From what I’m told, the council was given incorrect information when they voted on that motion. Had they been given the correct information, it wouldn’t have succeeded.
There were 5 councillors away, it was out in Mullewa. Nobody gave me an opportunity to speak. I wasn’t at the meeting (but) they could have given me a right of reply.
Instead they’ve decided to publicly hang me out to dry. It’s affecting my business, it’s affecting my personal life. I reached out for compassion, and this is how they respond.
Councillor Michael Reymond was the councillor who moved the motion of “losing confidence” at the September meeting. We spoke with him about the reasons for the motion.
Who put it to you about the problem with Ms Elllis?
It was a consensus. There was a feeling that we had to bring the matter to the head.
Did anyone help you draft the motion?
It was done for me by the council officers.
Myself and the Mayor sat down and put the words together and had it typed up.
Did the Mayor (Shane Van Styn) approach you?
Yes. The Mayor approached me. I said I think it’s an excellent idea. When I came back from leave, we discussed it then.
Was it agreed between you and the Mayor that you would put forward the motion?
He asked me what I thought about the idea, I said I’d put a motion forward. He updated me on the situation, on approved leave. When I came back to have a chat with him, I was a little bit out of touch. He told me that Cr Ellis had put another apology in. I said I’d support a motion.
Why wasn’t he the one to put the motion forward?
He tries to keep a mutual position on things. He tries to manage things. He’s meant to be mutual and unbiased. It’s not appropriate.
But it seems that it really did come from the Mayor?
It’s not new. Her absences have been a discussion among councillors for so long. She never turned up to the Reconciliation Committee meetings. I had to become chair. It’s a team effort. She gets paid a reasonable allowance. Would she do this if she got elected to state parliament? I don’t know. She needs to prioritise her issues.
Are you affiliated with any political party?
Are you aware Renee Ellis was a Labor candidate?
It was pretty obvious.
Could (The Mayor’s) National Party membership have anything to do with this?
No. That’s conspiracy type stuff.
I’m only worried with the fact she’s not turning up. That’s a fact. Look, she’s got a whole lot of reasons for having leave.
How did you react to the news she’d been dismissed?
I was surprised, as that was never the intention.
The motion was just to let her know that we we’re not happy with her attendance. We were hoping… the idea of the motion was to encourage her to rectify the issues and get on with business.
The fact that she was dismissed came as a surprise to me. That was never the intention.
Cr Reymond went on to speak about the motion being more than just about attendance, but about Ms Ellis’ participation in the wider council life.
The email traffic when we discuss matters with each other… I never see her name come up on email traffic on issues. For example, the sand dune issue.
There’s about 10 emails a day coming out. You know by that correspondence traffic who’s participating and who’s not.
I certainly haven’t been getting any emails from her at all.
I can only conclude that she doesn’t spend a lot of time on matters. I might be wrong. It seems to me she has family, personal, work commitments that are very demanding. You go into this position (knowing what’s involved).
She’s going to pull out anyway if she gets elected (to State Government). Her ambitions seem more for state politics than local politics.
But you need to keep on doing what you’re elected to do.
Cr Reymond spoke about how he valued Ms Ellis’ contributions.
She was providing a balanced view and an alternative view occasionally. But she has to meet what she was elected for.
I think to turn the blame on the Mayor and other councillors is unfair. Look at the attendance record. She’s the one not turning up to the meetings, we’re just the ones concerned about it.
You can’t say she hasn’t been given natural justice. She knew the rules. It’s like running a stop sign.
It’s inappropriate, and she’s been told many times about the consequences.
It’s a storm in a tea cup, and it will sort itself out.
It’s no secret that Mayor Shane Van Styn is affiliated with the National Party, having run for both the State seat of Geraldton and the Federal seat of Durack under the Nationals banner in recent years. We spoke with him about allegations that what has transpired might be politically motivated.
What do you say about the allegations this was politically motivated?
Absolutely categorically denying it.
There’s nothing political about counselling a councillor who has failed to show up for 5 of the last 7 meetings.
We have in recent times placed great emphasis on keeping rates down and providing value, and councillors being remunerated around $30,000 a year have to be accountable to the ratepayers they serve.
The city has embarked on staff cuts and efficiency drives, and councillors have to show value for money.
I think councillors have a right to question whether seven and a half thousand dollars a meeting is good value for money. (Mr Van Styn based this on Ms Ellis’ annual remuneration vs meetings attended.)
Why did Cr Reymond put the motion forward?
A number of councillors have approached me and sought advice. A number of councillors asked if we can put forward no confidence. I held them back.
After another apology, the budget meeting where she informed me she was going to be an apology, I contacted her and personally spoke with her. She came into the office, and I spoke with her in the offices, and counselled her on her attendance.
She has denied that (you had a meeting with her about her attendance).
That is utterly outrageous.
I had held off people wanting to move motions of no confidence. Since then Ken (Diehm, CEO) has also has spoken to her.
Since that, not only has she failed to apply for a leave of absence, but failed to provide an apology, and has simply gone absent.
You say a “number” of councillors have approached you. Zero is a number. One is a number.
Zero is not the number. More than a couple. A few.
Councillors confide in me directly.
Was there any intention to see her dismissed regarding the motion?
There was no intention. I was completely unaware of the three strikes. That only occurred when she requested the reasons for the absences, and that’s when the three strikes were discovered.
Speaking on the question of the motion being politically motivated:
I have seen no official announcement that she’s the endorsed Labor candidate ticket. I’ve heard that claim, but never seen it official. Look on the website, it’s not there.
The CEO is the person who has to disqualify the councillor. It is the CEO’s role.
The motion was carried 10/0. Absolutely unanimous. Moved and seconded. She has missed 5 of the last 7. The last was just a no show, and the second last was an apology the day before.
In terms of the politics of it, I note that by standing for state parliament, I expect she’ll seek leave of absence for January and February to conduct a campaign, and if successful, she’d resign in March.
If there was anything political, it’s why is she choosing to be on council yet not attending, and now challenging her disqualification knowing full well that she may require a leave of absence in January and February and, if successful, resigning from council in March, some 15 months after first being elected to council for a four year term?
What changes will there be, regarding council’s guidelines being inconsistent with the act?
That will be a matter for council to determine in the future. It’s been a long standing practice that application for leave is made at the meeting prior to which you seek leave.
If matter goes to SAT, and they rule she’s to be reinstated, are you happy to welcome her back and get on with business?
Absolutely, and I encourage her to apply to SAT if she wants to remain on council.
Why weren’t you the one to move the motion?
It’s not common practice for the Mayor to move motions from the chair.
Is it permissible?
Mayor Van Styn spoke of what transpired after the motion at September’s meeting.
She emailed councillors and apologised in writing, and said she’d work to improve it (her attendance). And if she fails to improve it she’ll offer her resignation.
The important thing to note is, the three strikes is set in law.
If the councillor had attended meetings, the motion would not have occurred, simple.
But there were a number of councillors, more than a couple, that have raised concerns.
Everything Geraldton understands that CGG CEO Ken Diehm has advised the councillors that the CGG guidelines will be updated in accordance with the legal advice he has received. He also plans to implement measures to catch any future “three strikes” occurrences immediately.
However, since issuing the dismissal notice and advising Ms Ellis to take the matter to SAT herself if she disagrees, the CGG is now offering to do a joint submission to SAT.
In an email to councillors Mr Diehm wrote:
"Whilst I have been required by law to issue a Notice of Disqualification to Councillor Ellis, I am not unsympathetic to her circumstances. Since issuing the Notice I have personally contacted Ms Ellis to advise her that I will be referring the matter to the State Administrative Tribunal for final determination. We have agreed to work collaboratively on the submission to ensure that all the facts and circumstances are presented to the Tribunal.
"My obligations under the Act are not negotiable and I would have been breaking the law if I had not issued the Notice of Disqualification. Ms Ellis understands and appreciates the legal obligations that are placed upon me and we both believe that working collaboratively on a submission to the State Administrative Tribunal is the best course of action to bring finality to this matter."
Ken Diehm and Renee Ellis are expected to be meeting today (Thursday, October 6) to discuss the joint submission to SAT.
The Department of Local Government and Communities is the State Government body that overseas the running of local councils. They have issued a statement on the matter.
"All local governments in Western Australia must abide by the provisions of the Local Government Act 1995. There are no penalties or consequences with regard to actions of the City of Greater Geraldton or its staff in this matter.
"Once the CEO issued a notification under this section the Local Government Act gives the elected member 28 days from the date of the CEO’s notification to either satisfy the CEO that they are not disqualified or apply to the State Administrative Tribunal asking for a declaration as to whether or not they are disqualified.
"If the elected member does not respond to the CEO’s notification in the above manner they are taken to be disqualified.
"This is the only way to have the matter resolved."
The department’s statement doesn’t speak to whether or not it was the correct move to issue the dismissal notice, but restates what Ms Ellis’ options are once the notice has been issued.
The statement clearly states that there are no penalties or consequences for any CGG staff in this matter.
Ms Renee Ellis spoke with Everything Geraldton again regarding the joint submission:
The city have acknowledged that they have acted outside of the act, I have acted within the act, and because of that anomaly the city are now funding my legal representation to SAT and we are preparing a joint submission together.
Mr Darren West also spoke regarding the offer to do a joint submission to SAT.
Do you stand behind the comments you have already made?
At the time that was the case. It has become clear to anyone in this case that those comments have been vindicated. We feel that councillors have recognised this, and the CEO has made the appropriate change in course. I stand by the comments I made re the notice of disqualification.
The City has had a change of heart. We're happy to work with the City in preparing the brief and evidence for SAT. We’ve asked the City to admit to publicly what they’ve admitted to privately, that the City’s guidelines sit outside the act and Cr Ellis’ submissions sit inside the act.
We’d like a public apology, whether or not we’ll get that remains to be seen. She’s been vindicated in her actions.
We are seeking legal advice regarding the power of the City to change the minutes (for the April meeting).
All the councillors were of the view that they had given her a leave of absence.
But the Leave of Absence request was never put as a motion.
But they (the councillors) were all privy to that leave request. And she was noted in the minutes as a leave of absence. Councillors considered her as being absent and not an apology.
And they carried the minutes in the May meeting from the April meeting without amending.
I don’t think the CEO has the capacity to say “those minutes are wrong, I don’t accept those minutes.” Because they’re not the CEO’s minutes, they’re the council’s minutes. I don’t think they can change the minutes without a resolution of council.
The reason it wasn’t considered by council is because of a major bungle by the CEO.
Has Ms Ellis been officially named a Labor candidate? We haven’t found anything published to this effect.
She was endorsed in April. At this time she had some difficult times in her life. A decision was made to hold back publicly announcing her candidacy.
We made a public announcement last week. We’ve announced it but we’re not shouting it at this stage.
Do you think the average Joe on the street really cares about all this?
Not much. What they do care about is that their city has become highly politicised.
But isn’t it possible the average Joe might see your response to the matter as the very thing that has politicised the issue?
We’re responding to a political smear campaign. We don’t see any other way that we can respond.
Do you see the joint submission offer as an olive branch from the City?
I saw it as a concession that they’ve got this wrong, and have created a problem that needs to be fixed.
What I do see as the olive branch is that they’re willing to work with Renee Ellis to prepare an application for SAT, and to fund the costs. But it was going to go to SAT anyway.