Image for Mayor Peter Coad responds to Cr Mike Wilson’s allegations

MR, FEBRUARY 27 ...

• Mayor Peter Coad responds to Cr Mike Wilson’s allegations

As Huon Valley Council’s elected mayor, and as a councillor, I believe it is important that I respond to comments, some of them ludicrous, by Cr Mike Wilson in an advertisement in last week’s Huon Valley News (24 February).

In 2014, valley residents who approached me to stand as a mayoral candidate urged me to work for change that would improve council’s governance; create a more open and transparent council; and build an efficient infrastructure.

After becoming mayor in November of that year, I attempted to encourage both management and councillors to participate in a process of local government reform. Since day one, Cr Wilson, with the backing of his fellow Heart of the Huon councillors, has worked to undermine my position and proposals. 

Cr Wilson’s attempts to become mayor since he entered council at the turn of the century, in my view, have possibly detracted from his potential to make a more positive contribution to the performance of the council. I believe his current spate of unjustified personal attacks on my position as mayor are political in nature. And I believe that his call for fresh elections reflect his desire to fulfil his burning ambition to become mayor.

I challenge Cr Wilson to offer one instance of where I have, in his words, been guilty of “publicly misrepresenting the Huon Valley Council”.

Cr Wilson is correct in observing that I have raised the issue of council losing $4 million in ill-advised investments. Why wouldn’t I? The whole community is sick of the secrecy surrounding this unfortunate happening.

My views on local government reform are well known: we must move with the times and effect necessary changes if the Huon Valley is to keep pace with, and remain relevant to, what is happening at state, national and international levels.

It is not good enough just to balance council’s budget every year, yet, in the meantime, allow its infrastructure to fall into disrepair. For instance, TasWater had to be set up because councils failed to maintain infrastructure effectively. I agree with Cr Wilson when he says council is doing a good job in funding asset “replacement”, yet he fails to acknowledge that council must do more than simply retain the level of existing assets. It must grow its asset base if it is to create new jobs and generate growth. New infrastructure is vital if our region is to achieve sustainable economic viability.

Cr Wilson claims that it has been “discovered” that Peter Coad has held meetings with the Kingborough mayor to discuss amalgamating with Kingborough. As council’s mayor, of course I have been having discussions. There is no secret about that. But my discussions have not been restricted to Kingborough. I have been in touch with other councils, the main focus always being on how we must co-operate to build adequate infrastructure capacity for our region.

I was nominated by southern Tasmania mayors for membership of the Governance and Economic Development committees of the Southern Tasmanian Councils Authority. It is critical for our valley that I work with councils and other organisations if we are to build the infrastructure required to keep Tasmania’s southern region viable.

Among other sometimes nonsensical allegations, Cr Wilson states that Kingborough’s Mayor Steve Wass said that HVC’s “entire operations” would move to Kingborough in event of amalgamation. I’m sure Mayor Wass wouldn’t say that, and, anyway, it is an outcome that I would do my best to prevent from occurring.

I believe Cr Wilson has the capacity to influence those Heart of the Huon team members who occasionally break ranks with his position. His 24 February credit card motion, which negates the intentions of council’s January review resolution, is an example, I believe, of how he persuades councillors to reverse a council decision that is at variance with his wishes.

It is to be hoped that the Board of Inquiry’s assessment, and the Minister for Local Government’s deliberations, will result in a decision that is in the best interests of the people of the Huon Valley and of Tasmania as a whole — and not just in the interests of Cr Wilson and his supporting councillors.

Peter Coad
Councillor Huon Valley Council

• Shane Johnson in Comments: … Proper scrutiny of the credit card use must occur. If not by this Council then by an Administrator appointed by the Minister. This will help to restore trust in Council from all members of the community. I have faith that Minister Gutwein will do this job with impartiality and will set aside Cr. Mike Wilson’s very public support of the Liberal Party in the past.  Readers of the Huon News may remember that in 2013 the then Opposition Leader, Will Hodgman, and local Liberal member, Jacquie Petrusma, were given the honour of launching Wilson’s new tourist boat providing an excellent media opportunity in the run up to the last State election. This bypassed the Premier and local Labor member, Lara Giddings and the then Tourism Minister, Scott Bacon.  …

MR, FEBRUARY 26 ...

• Huon credit card review ‘destroyed’

Peter Coad, speaking as a councillor and not as mayor of Huon Valley Council, said he was disappointed that the council, at its meeting on 24 February, 2016, had voted to delay implementation of council’s January credit card review resolution, and also to restrict the scope of the requested report.

“This decision,” said Cr Coad, “has destroyed the resolution’s intent.”

He said Cr Ian Mackintosh’s January resolution required the review report to cover the use of credit cards by general managers, mayors and acting mayors over four financial years.

He said Cr Mike Wilson’s motion passed at the February council meeting had destroyed Cr Mackintosh’s motion by restricting the review to the period 1 November 2014 to 29 February 2016.

The Wilson motion, he said, required the rest of the reporting period (from 1 July 2012, to 31 October, 2014), to be considered by council in the 2016-2017 budget preparation process.

Cr Coad said: “It is highly unlikely this earlier period will be approved for review given that a majority of councillors — the six-member Heart of the Huon team — have now demonstrated an unwillingness for credit card records to be revealed.

“This means the credit cards of General Manager, the former mayor and the former acting mayor in this earlier period are now unlikely ever to be reviewed.”

Cr Coad said that council management’s claim that it could cost possibly more than $15,000 to prepare a report for council on credit card usage (as per Cr Mackintosh’s motion) had been disputed by several highly qualified professionals in the Huon Valley community. The management estimate, they had said, appeared to be an excessive amount for accessing a “few bank statements and receipts”.

He said several previous council motions involving the expenditure of tens of thousands of dollars that had been supported by the Heart of the Huon team had not required budgetary scrutiny.

“The wrecking of the Mackintosh card review,” he said, “had resulted in the denial of community expectations of openness and transparency on the part of their local council. The question that has to be asked is why?”

Cr Coad said that, in 2014, the State Auditor-General had raised concerns that Huon Valley Council staff member was inappropriately authorising their own credit card. A card holder, it was observed, had a $10,000 limit for each transaction.

“As mayor, and on behalf of the community, I sought copies of all card statements for the periods when a staff person was authorising their own payments,” said Cr Coad. “I was refused access to these statements. It is extraordinary that some councillors and management now want to delay the review of credit cards and restrict the period of the review.

“Consequently, what is emerging in our community is the impression that council must have something to hide. Ratepayers can reasonably expect openness and transparency from their council. Cr Mackintosh’s resolution in January to look into credit card use was an attempt to display this openness and transparency.

“However, passing a motion at council’s very next meeting to negate the intent of the January motion should be a matter of huge concern to everyone in the Huon Valley,” said Cr Coad.

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