MOUNT Gambier City Council has released a snapshot of attendance of councillors at key meetings over the past four-year term, which has shown a disparity among the membership.
The breakdown of attendance at meetings was released on the eve of local government elections and showed low attendance by some elected members.
While most councillors attended the majority of compulsory monthly meetings, one councillor attended only 21 of a total 99 workshops – informal meetings held as key strategic planning sessions for the council.
The highest performers were Mayor Andrew Lee, Cr Ian Von Stanke and Cr Frank Morello, who also consistently attended committee-level meetings.
Cr Sonya Mezinec and Cr Hanna Persello consistently attended workshops and committee meetings, as did retiring elected member Penny Richardson, while retiring councillor Des Mutton – who has served on council for 12 years – took a leave of absence for two months in 2018.
In contrast, Cr Steve Perryman attended a mere 21 workshops and only 22 of 40 standing committee meetings.
Cr Perryman – who is often vocal in the council chamber during full council meetings – said he preferred to raise issues “in a public forum”.
“I undertake my role without fear or favour and I prefer to voice my opinions in the chamber,” Cr Perryman told The Border Watch.
“It is my strong view the workshops are overused and more often than not the issues raised at workshops could be addressed in a public forum.
“When an issue becomes ‘too hot’ for councillors, it is referred to the workshops, but my view is those items should be discussed publicly.”
Cr Christian Greco – who attended 29 workshops – said he also focused on providing input at council’s monthly meetings.
“I prefer to raise issues at the full council meetings, which are held in a public forum,” Cr Greco said.
“All decisions are ultimately made at the monthly meetings and I was the second most regular councillor in attendance at the full meetings.
“Because there is no formal procedure at workshops, the conversation can be dominated by a few members.
“The workshops are held behind closed doors, so I believe discussing items at the meetings is more transparent.”
Council chief executive Mark McShane said councillors absent without leave from three or more consecutive monthly meetings can be removed from their seat.
“Attendance at committees is not a prescribed legislative requirement, however council establishes the decision making structure that includes a number of committees and subcommittees, each of which have specific functions,” he explained.
“Elected member attendance at workshops is not a prescribed legislative requirement.
“However, it would be recommend that elected members avail themselves of as many opportunities as they are able on matters that are to be presented before the council for formal consideration to ensure informed decision making.”
He added workshops do not have prescribed procedures, therefore no quorum or minimum number of attendees is required.
“Councillors over a four year term have a significant number of formal and informal meetings to attend, roughly 200 or more,” Mr McShane said.
“In addition, councillors attend a large number of other council and non-council arranged activities such as citizenship ceremonies, events and functions through the year representing the council.
“Further to this, councillors are contacted by the community about a range of matters, many of which are then forwarded to council staff to attend to.”