Former Mayor Michael Hayes, Lachie Mac Smith and Janelle Culverson resigned from Cabonne Council on Tuesday, citing personal and defamatory criticisms in social and other media.
In resigning Cr Lachie MacSmith said:
“Accusations in the social media with absolutely no evidence have been both damaging and hurtful to myself and my family. This has culminated in tendering my resignation.
“I pride myself on telling the truth, acting with honesty and integrity, but my reputation has been tarnished by unfounded allegations emanating from this council chamber.
“I can’t help believing this character assassination by social media has been heavily influenced by the ANTY Group, as has their influence on the Mayor. “
Cr MacSmith read out a “wish list” prepared last year by the Mayor Ian Gosper, Cr Hayes and himself which Cr Mac Smith said was originally compiled to help protect Cabonne ratepayers if a merger with Orange and Blayney were to happen. The list was discussed with Department of Local Government representatives early last October – when mergers looked a certainty.
Cr. MacSmith went on to say:
“Many ratepayers were accusing Councillor Hayes and myself of being complicit with OCC [Orange City Council] in what they believed was an attempted takeover by OCC. I can only hope, after hearing of the contents of this wish list, their fears will be allayed and seen to be misdirected.”
At a tense meeting of the Council on 13 October 2016 councillors voted by a narrow 6-5 to continue the legal action commenced in the Land and Environment Court (and later in the Supreme Court). Crs Hayes, MacSmith and Culverson, whilst always rejecting the idea of mergers, led the vote against continuing with court proceedings, putting their view that mergers were inevitable and it would be better to spend money and energy by being prepared to get the best out of the situation.
It is now history that former Premier Mike Baird, who was unrelenting on the forced merger issue, resigned in January and the new Premier, Gladys Berejiklian soon after abandoned proposed council mergers in regional areas. This however only applied to those councils who had proceeded with and had pending legal action in the courts. Other regional council amalgamations that had already been completed would stand.
At Tuesday’s council meeting Cr Hayes maintained that he took his stand against court appeals because the government was determined that mergers would go ahead and that it was always his intention to get the best outcome for Cabonne.
Cr Culverson said that she had felt defamed by the subsequent airing on social and other media of comments made at the October council meeting and these being associated with her.
Mayor Ian Gosper in a statement after the meeting said:
“It is a sorry day for Cabonne Council,” Cr Gosper said.
“The merger proposal and the whole Fit For The Future process caused a lot of division and we can see that today.
“Democracy is an important part of Local Government and councillors have the right to their own opinions.”
Cr Gosper thanked Crs MacSmith and Culverson for their eight and half years of service and Cr Hayes for four and half years’ service to the council.
It is unlikely that by-elections will be held for the vacant council seats as a full council election (for the new limit of 9 councillors) will be held on September 9.
The October Wish List
CABONNE’S WISH LlST – IF A MERGER WITH ORANGE & BLAYNEY. NO 2. OCT-2016.
Independent Administrator, Essential if a proposed merger were to be successful.
Equal Representation. Also essential. Cabonne 4 Councillors, Blayney 4 Councillor’s,
Orange 4 Councillor’s. Geographically Cabonne 17 times the size of Orange
Cabonne’s cash reserves. To be quarantined and spent in the Cabonne shire area. Where it was raised.
Retention of the Cabonne office in Molong, i.e part Environmental and Planning, part Admin, Tourism could go to Orange.
Cudal Office, Engineering and Works, to be the Headquarters, due to it’s geographical position of being in the centre of a merged entity. Depots in Orange and Blayney. (Cabonne’s depot in Ash St could be sold).
Court costs awarded against Cabonne to be negotiated.
Freezing of rural rates for 5yrs for Cabonne, Orange rural rates to rise to Cabonne’s level. Subsidy of Cabonne’s Business rates as they are raised to Orange levels.
Merged council entity to elect Mayor and Deputy from 2017.
Central Tablelands Water, to be single water governing entity of the merged entity, and also of Weddin shire, and possibly Cowra shire. CTW, has a proven track record of governance.
Name of merged entity, to be negotiated, i.e. Orange and Canobolas Regional Council.
Completion of planned projects in Cabonne, ie, Molong library, Molong’s new sport’s ground, Canowindra’s retirement village, truck parking bay in Manildra.
Year Plan for Cabonne Shire. Finance, $11 million dollars. $1 million for each Cabonne village, to be spent over 10 yrs, less 14% admin costs. Money for infrastructure, ie upgrade and maintenance for pools, halls, ovals, and (money for aged care facilities if proven viable). Most are maintained by volunteers now, we wish to keep their involvement in place.
(Discuss separate issue if possible, Orange Regional Hospital management).