Acting Council CEO defies request from Councillor

Ms Louise Greenaway, independent candidate for the Wyong Ward, near ongoing Council work at the Central Coast AirportArchive Image: Ms Louise Greenaway, independent candidate for the Wyong Ward, near ongoing Council work at the Central Coast Airport

Independent Wyong Ward Councillor, Louise Greenaway, said she was “shocked and disappointed” when Acting CEO, Mr Brian Glendenning, said he would not be adhering to her request to publish links and documents relating to Warnervale Airport on Council’s website.

“I am very much in favour of open and transparent government, so I am very much in favour of having documents released to the public,” Clr Greenaway said. When Council met on June 4, Clr Greenaway asked for four documents to either be linked to, or published on, Council’s website, within the pages of the site that relate to the Warnervale Airport. In response to Clr Greenaway’s request, Mr Glendenning said: “Are you intending to submit those for me to then consider proactively releasing them, or are you proposing that somehow this Council does something it has no legal authority to do? “I am not sure what it is you are proposing?” Mr Glendenning was referring to the fact that, under the Government Information Public Access (GiPA) Act, it is the sole discretion of a Council’s chief officer to determine whether or not to proactively release a document.

Clr Greenaway said because the documents were already in the public domain she thought the request was straightforward.

“Firstly I am not going to proactively release a document that is a public document on a state legislation website,” Mr Glendenning said. “I am just asking that it be linked the same way that we link to Companion Animals legislation,” Clr Greenaway said. “No I won’t be doing that,” Mr Glendenning said. “I won’t be doing that, Councillor, but if there are documents that you would also like to submit, that you would also like to be proactively released, then of course I will consider that,” Mr Glendenning said. To which Clr Greenaway replied: “You can defy the request by all means but I am requesting that it be linked, that’s all, as well as the Minister’s reasons for retaining the Act.”

She said she believed documents related to the airport should be located on the “particular part of the website that refers to the airport, and unless you know what is there, it is difficult to find. “I don’t see it would be that much of an imposition.” Clr Doug Vincent, who seconded Clr Greenaway’s motion said: “This is just one more move in allowing the new Central Coast Council to be transparent, it is good practice that local government bodies recommend for Councils to be as transparent as possible. “I know previous Councils, and some Councillors, have had the view that if you can just put stuff up behind closed doors and deal with it, they know what is best for the public, and if they could just get rid of the pesky ratepayers that keep asking questions, that would make for good governance and good local government, but when you go out and speak to the community, when you are in forums… what they want is to know what is happening in their Council,” Clr Vincent said.

“I know it must be difficult when people for the last four or five years have said run in one direction, and now, a new Council is saying could you please run in a different direction,” he said. Clr Greg Best rose to ask questions of Mr Glendenning to confirm the Warnervale Airport Restrictions Act, one of the four documents requested to be linked to, was a public domain document. “Do you think in a productive working relationship with staff, that we might actually ask you for a report on these documents, and then you can come back and tell us, and then we will know if we have got a law-breaking situation or whether it can legally be done, and then we can go forward,” Clr Best said.

In relation to Mr Glendenning stating that he may not do as requested by Clr Greenaway, Clr Best said: “I have never heard a general manager say that before.” “It is a decision that can’t be determined by a resolution of the Council, it has to be the General Manager, whoever that might be, so that is why it is phrased in terms of a request rather than a binding direction,” Mr Glendenning said. “I don’t see a great problem with this, providing it is lawful,” Clr Best said. “We are trying to build a relationship with our professional arm,” he said. “I don’t think it sends a really good message when I hear a General Manager, and I have never heard it said before, ‘I may defy that direction by the Board of the Council’ and clearly, on lawful grounds, but this is not the spirit of where we are meant to be going. “I take the point that it could help if they sat on Council’s website, but this is not how you introduce them to council,” Clr Best said.

After the meeting, Clr Greenaway told the Wyong Regional Chronicle that there were already precedents for linking to relevant legislation from the Council website. “It wasn’t anything new, I wasn’t breaking new ground, I wasn’t asking him to breach anything,” she said. “We voted to send the request to the CEO, so I will be interested to see if those documents go on the website, given that Mr Glendenning said he will not do it. “He has already indicated his intention in a public place not to do it.” The four documents were a link to the Warnervale Airport Restrictions Act, to the Minister’s decision for retaining Act, a March 13 letter from Lake Macquarie Council expressing concerns their concerns about any expansion of the airport at Warnervale, and the notice of determination for a development application (DA1055/2017) refusing the clearing of land already cleared without approval by Council, at the airport site.

During the debate, Clr Greenaway stood to make a point of order in relation to Clr Best “making a personal attack” which Mayor Smith ruled against. Clr Jeff Sundstrom asked Mr Glendenning what his response would be if he came across material that showed Council had been negligent, irresponsible or acted illegally. Mr Glendenning said it was a very broad question that would depend entirely on the circumstances, but he would need to consider whether the information was defamatory, or likely to prejudice a police or ICAC investigation, so he couldn’t give a blanket answer, but would “follow the Act to a T when making a decision”.

Source: Agenda item 3.9, Jun 4 Central Coast Council ordinary meeting Interview, Jun 7 Louise Greenaway, Central Coast Council Jackie Pearson, journalist