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May 13, 2016
By Brad Lester
Gippsland Shire councillors exploded
at last Wednesday’s council meeting,
with claims of bullying, intimidation
and calls for yet another panel hearing
to investigate an alleged breach of the
councillors code of conduct.
Cr Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks accused Cr An-
drew McEwen of bullying over pressuring other
councillors to side with his views of coal seam gas
and said he would call for a panel to investigate
Cr McEwen counterattacked by claiming Cr
Hutchinson-Brooks’ comments were actually bully-
ing him and had breached the conduct code.
Two panel hearings are already expected to cost
council $60,000, with a panel finding Cr Don Hill
had shown disrespect to councillors and council
staff, and misled the community – a finding he has
appealed to the Victo-
rian Civil Administra-
tive Tribunal (VCAT)
to overturn - and Cr
Jim Fawcett the subject
of a panel requested by
Cr Hill. The outcome
of the second hearing
is not yet known.
meeting was tipped
to be fiery, with coun-
cil debating the panel
finding against Cr Hill
and also questioning
the legitimacy of him using a council photocopier to
print what some councillors claimed was a personal
newsletter at a cost to council of $1047.75.
Cr Hutchinson-Brooks’ concerns with Cr McE-
wen arose from a notice of motion from councillors
McEwen, Hill and Kieran Kennedy asking council
to write to the Victorian Government requesting all
land in the shire be exempt from coal and coal seam
gas exploration via a bill in parliament.
Cr Hutchinson-Brooks was angered by an email
Cr McEwen sent on Friday, February 26, in response
to the Coal and CSG Free Mirboo North Group
thanking all councillors for unanimously carrying
a motion at the February 24 council meeting. That
motion directed council to advise the government it
supported a ban on the unconventional gas industry
in Victoria until it could be demonstrated the
impacts would not adversely affect the environment,
economy or community.
emailed in response,
“It is a victory to all of
the people who have
had the courage to
speak out for the com-
mon good. In an elec-
tion year it is amazing
at the transformation
of some our reluctant
Councillors. We will
give them an oppor-
tunity to stand up for
the ongoing protection
of our area through an
amendment to exempt south Gippsland form (sic)
activities in the mining act.”
Cr Hutchinson-Brooks told council Cr McEwen
implied other councillors had not spoken for the
common good, which he said was not true.
“It is Cr McEwen who mentions the election
year again to denigrate his fellow councillors by in-
nuendo, that they have changed their minds because
of the coming election. This is sheer calumny and
hypocrisy,” he said.
Brooks said Cr Hill
hijacked others’ work
“to make himself look
good, as evidenced in
the so called Tarwin
Valley Ward Newslet-
ter recently written and
published by him”.
Brooks said council-
lors McEwen and Hill
had bullied other coun-
cillors by putting them
down and spreading
false rumours about them.
Cr Hutchinson-Brooks said he would be lodging
a formal complaint under the Councillor Code of
Conduct “for the blatant bullying” contained within
Cr Kennedy called a point of order, saying
Cr Hutchinson-Brooks’ views were a personal
attack and off topic, to cries of “hear, hear” from
Mayor Cr Bob Newton asked Cr Hutchinson-
Brooks to refrain from personalising his debate.
Cr McEwen said he counted at least 12 personal
insults to himself in Cr Hutchinson-Brooks’ com-
ments and “not one substantive argument against
► More about the CSG issue on page 11.
SOUTH Gippsland Shire councillors have traded
votes to secure the support of other councillors to
become mayor during the current term of coun-
cil, council heard last Wednesday.
Cr Mohya Davies said she had experienced in-
timidation and lack of respect from other council-
lors and so had council officers.
She was responding to a report about a Coun-
cillor Conduct Panel finding that Cr Don Hill had
breached council’s Code of Conduct by being dis-
honest and disrespectful towards fellow councillors
and council staff, and deceived the community with
incorrect information. The panel report stated it
“reprimands Cr Hill”.
Cr Davies said Cr Hill had almost singlehand-
edly ruined council’s rating strategy process and
denigrated other councillors.
Cr Hill did not comment on the findings, given
he has appealed the panel’s findings with the Victo-
rian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
He did note the panel recommended council re-
view its implementation of local laws, and the be-
haviour of mayors and meeting chairs.
Cr Jim Fawcett, one of the initiators of the panel
hearing, said all councillors could learn from the
“I would expect Cr Hill to provide his community
with an explanation of the panel findings as he sees
them, rather than to rely on an appeal,” he said.
Cr Andrew McEwen said the once collabora-
tive council had been destroyed by a culture of
He said Cr Hill, a first time councillor, had
shown a “high level of integrity, is passionate and is
indeed forthright at times”, but had been subject to a
campaign of personal vilification.
Cr Kieran Kennedy also backed Cr Hill, saying
• Cr Nigel
• Cr Andrew
• Cr Don Hill.
“Bullying” rocks council
he had a “forensic attitude to all literature and fig-
ures presented to council”, but did not agree with Cr
Hill writing letters to local newspapers about coun-
Council voted unanimously to accept the report
and direct Cr Hill to attend training for six months
to improve his understanding of council procedures.
Cr Hill said VCAT had since agreed to place a stay
on his training until his appeal is heard.
CRIES of “favouritism” and “shambles in gov-
ernance” were shouted by Cr Kieran Kennedy at
last Wednesday’s South Gippsland Shire Council
meeting as he criticised a bid by some councillors
to reprimand Cr Don Hill over his controversial
Cr Hill used a council photocopier to print
5000 double sided colour copies of a Tarwin Val-
ley Ward newsletter, costing ratepayers $1047.75 .
He said councillors were permitted to use a council
photocopier as part of their minimum toolkit.
“I chose to spend $1000 on informing my
constituents. Some people spend that on the
telephone or on educational courses that they drop
out of,” he said.
Cr Kennedy rejected a bid by Cr Jim Fawcett
to lodge a notice of motion in urgent business, as
such motions must typically already be listed on the
“You are out of order Mr Chair and so is Mr
Tamlin,” Cr Kennedy yelled at meeting chair mayor
Cr Bob Newton and CEO Tim Tamlin, who was vis-
ibly taken back by the outburst, after they allowed
the notice of motion to be considered.
Cr Kennedy also said, “...unless there is some-
thing going on here.”
Cr Hill added, “This is not legitimate urgent
business and it is concocted to defame a councillor
in this room,” referring to himself.
The motion called for council to determine that
council resources should not be used to provide per-
sonalised ward newsletters.
The motion also called for a review of the Coun-
cillor Support and Expenditure Policy in the next
Mr Tamlin initially accepted Cr Fawcett’s motion
and after substantial debate the motion was carried.
But the CEO later discovered the notice of
motion was illegitimate and therefore the motion
passed was invalid.
Council reconvened and again voted to carry the
motion, despite councillors Kennedy, Andrew McE-
wen and Hill voting against it. Councillors Fawcett,
Lorraine Brunt, Newton, Mohya Davies and Nigel
Hutchinson-Brook voted for it. Cr Jeanette Harding
Cr Hutchinson-Brooks said if each councillor
produced four newsletters a year, the cost to rate-
payers would be $36,000.
He said councillors were permitted access to a
photocopier but for “incidental uses, not mass pub-
Cr McEwen felt the matter would be best dealt
with by calling for an officer ’s report for consider-
ation at the May council meeting.
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