By Raquel Mustillo
MOUNT Gambier City Council elected member Kate Amoroso must explain her absences after missing three consecutive meetings and and six meetings this calendar year or face expulsion from her seat.
Council’s elected members and mayor Lynette Martin expressed concern about Cr Amoroso’s non-attendance at the August, September and October council meetings due to ill health.
Ms Martin accepted an urgent notice of motion to write to Cr Amoroso indicating she has been absent from three consecutive meetings seeking an explanation for her absence and her expected return to the chamber.
“We are sympathetic to her health issues… from an organisation’s point of view, council has to make sure people are able to attend meetings and represent their community,” she said.
“This is nothing personal and I believe Cr Amoroso should be given the opportunity to present her case.
“Her continued leave of absence may indicate she is not fit enough to carry out her role at council.”
Under the Local Government Act, a councillor can be expelled after missing three consecutive meetings without prior leave of the council or leave being granted at any of the council meetings concerned.
Councillors did not move to dismiss Cr Amoroso, but supported a motion for her to provide a rationale for the string of absences to the mayor and chief executive officer by November 2.
Earlier in the meeting, councillors voted unanimously to reject Cr Amoroso’s request for a one month leave of absence for reasons of a “personal nature”.
Cr Steve Perryman moved to deny the request “on the basis of procedural fairness”, with Cr Bruins seconding it.
“I am happy to second this on the basis this is the six ordinary meeting of council this calendar year that Cr Amoroso has failed to attend without having a valid explanation to the mayor or elected members,” he said.
Mayor Martin said she understood Cr Amoroso had health issues and it had been “difficult for her to fulfil her duties as a councillor”.
“I am concerned that her continued ill health is preventing her from fulfilling her duties,” she said.
Councillor Perryman, Bruins, Frank Morello, Sonya Mezinec and Paul Jenner voted to deny the leave of absence.
Crs Ben Hood and Christian Greco were absent.
Later in the evening, Cr Amoroso’s motion to establish electronic participation in meetings of members that cannot be physically present was not accepted by Ms Martin.
A staff report noted electronic attendance at council meetings was a temporary provision under emergency legislative variations in response to Covid-19, but ordinarily the Local Government Act did not provide for attendance at council meetings other than physical attendance.
“I acknowledge Cr Amoroso’s notice of motion, but as she is not here to present it, I recommend we move onto the next item,” Ms Martin said.
Ms Martin did accept a motion to replace Cr Amoroso from six advisory groups, including the Australia Day Awards Selection Panel, the Community Mayor’s Christmas Appeal and the Mount Gambier Youth Advisory Group.
Speaking to the motion, Cr Steve Perryman said Cr Amoroso tendered her resignation from all non-compulsory council committees on September 22, effective immediately.
“On October 13, Cr Amoroso advised via email that she wished to withdraw her resignations and instead seek a leave of absence from council for a period of one month,” he said.
“Given the circumstances, it is submitted that council may wish to consider appointing replacement representatives on these groups to relieve Cr Amoroso of the duties and to ensure that council is meeting its obligation to have a councillor engaging with the community via these groups.”
Cr Amoroso’s request for an official absence from the September meeting was rejected after council divided on whether to accept her apology, with Mayor Martin using her casting vote to knock back the request.
Minutes from the Septemnber meeting show a motion to accept Cr Sonia Mezinec was amended to also receive Cr Amoroso’s motion, but failed to secure majority support.
Mayor Martin refused to address questions in reference to using her casting vote to reject Cr Amoroso’s apology, but said she was “serious about my use of my casting vote which I can only exercise when there is a tied vote”.
“In this instance, my casting vote related to an amendment and the ultimate motion was carried unanimously,” she said.
Cr Amoroso was contacted for comment.