THE strained relationship between the mayor and chief executive officer of Grant District Council has hit flashpoint amid an exchange of words at this week’s council meeting.
The issue was sparked by a controversial letter – from the Mount Gambier Health Advisory Council (HAC) – being included publicly in the agenda criticising Mayor Richard Sage’s lack of attendance at those meetings.
Mr Sage expressed his opposition to the letter being placed in the agenda and claimed the letter authored by the HAC’s presiding member Maureen Klintberg was “defamation to the highest degree”.
Arguing this was a clear “attack” on him by Ms Klintberg, the long serving mayor adamantly rejected a number of allegations penned in the letter.
“This is really upsetting to my family to have this sort of stuff dragged out through the media again,” Mr Sage said.
The mayor called for a “full apology” from Ms Klintberg and revealed he would be writing to Health Minister Stephen Wade on the issue.
“If she has an issue with me, she should take it up with me – not through the council,” the mayor said.
“As far as I am concerned we need answers.
“Did she (Ms Klintberg) do it off her own back or did she have the full backing of the board she is a chair of?”
In a statement released yesterday, Ms Klintberg said she was grateful for the council’s assistance over the years and her only intent was to further develop a sense of involvement between the council and HAC.
“I look forward to working with all stakeholders to achieve a strong working relationship in the best interests of the community and the health services,” Ms Klintberg said.
At the meeting, the mayor also accused council chief executive David Singe of making the “wrong” decision and called on him to work with the “mayor”.
In response, Mr Singe said the “mayor should also work with the CEO”.
This prompted one councillor to interject by saying “that’s enough”.
It is understood the chief executive officer and Mr Sage have been at loggerheads for weeks.
“As people are aware, I am a very community minded person, I do take the role of mayor and being an advocate for the community very seriously,” Mr Sage said at the meeting.
“I noticed you have put the letter in the agenda for discussion.
“I’m a little disappointed David, I thought you may have actually spoken to me.”
He revealed Mr Singe held discussions with Ms Klintberg before the letter was sent.
In just the second full council meeting since the local government elections, Mr Sage said Mr Singe’s actions showed a “lack of respect to the position of mayor”.
He said this lack of respect was also being shown by Ms Klintberg given he had attended “well over” half of the HAC meetings this year.
Mr Sage said many of the HAC meetings conflicted with council meetings, which were his highest priority.
In particular, Mr Sage stood by his suggestion artwork created by indigenous Mount Gambier Prison inmates could be displayed at the new renal dialysis facility.
In the letter, Ms Klintberg wrote that some members believed this was “inappropriate” because Mr Sage was employed at the prison.
“That actually came out of a presentation done by Professor Toby Coates when discussing the new renal unit and the need to make it a more welcoming space for not only Aboriginal people, but anyone who wanted to use it,” the mayor said.
He said the new renal facility could be incorporated with the theme of “getting in touch with country and making it more spacious and welcoming”.
He said it was not about purchasing the paintings.
Mr Sage said he had been in discussions on the suggestion with the hospital management, which was keen to see this concept progress.
“It has not been signed off at all, it is about bringing ideas … being a HAC member, that’s what I thought the role was,” he argued.
“This (HAC) is not a Section 40 committee of council, it is very similar to going to the CFS or any of those other meetings. It is about being involved and advocating.”
He revealed he had advocated in the past with regards to how the hospital’s accident and emergency department was “under pressure” and what needed to be done to bring parties together.
“It is an attack on myself really,” said Mr Sage, who alleged the previous HAC presiding member was also criticised by some members of the body.
“It is disappointing and I am concerned that it has come before the council without any due diligence at all.
“I would like to see council investigate and send a letter back to the HAC to see a copy of the minutes when this was discussed and the motion put forward regarding the correspondence sent to the CEO (Mr Singe).
“We need to get information back about why this has occurred, how it has come about.”
Mr Sage also rejected criticism in the letter that he had not assisted in fundraising.
“I was involved in the Bollywood Ball last year, I did a lot of fundraising and got people attending,” he said.
This year, Mr Sage was also involved in the “Renal Walk” organised by his daughter Danielle Horton, who is about to take on the journey of renal dialysis at some stage.
“This is what we have done as a family and I am really disappointed,” Mr Sage said.
A report will come back to the council once the HAC has responded.