MELVILLE mayor George Gear has defended the consultation over a proposed 50-year lease for the Melville Bowling Club, while at the same time claiming he hadn’t heard about the timeframe before it came up for a vote.
On Tuesday the council adjourned its monthly meeting before making a decision on the proposed lease, although Mr Gear said they were only a “minor amendment” or two away from finalising something he believes will be acceptable to both club and council. The mayor said he only pulled the pin on the meeting because it hit 10pm and he’d noticed staff and councillors, many having worked since 8.30am, started to lose focus and get “ratty” around then.
The public gallery was packed with more than 100 people before the item was brought behind closed doors.
During question time Greater Melville Residents Association acting president Scott Green was ordered by Mr Gear to apologise after he suggested councillors who’d benefited from the club’s support during the election had a conflict of interest.
The association’s petition to have a previous decision directing the CEO to finalise a lease rescinded also fell short, with a motion dismissed by the mayor because a recision needed five-days’ notice.
Mr Gear told the Herald that once the meeting went behind closed doors to discuss the details of the lease, there was a “constructive and amiable” discussion between councillors, who worked on changes to the council’s proposed lease that resolved issues identified by its lawyers, but also fitted with the plans of the club.
Mr Gear said while he’d read through the Local Government Act before last month’s vote to award the club the unprecedented lease, and believed he’d made the appropriate declarations, post-vote he checked with the council’s admin.
“I asked the responsible officer and he had no problem; it was totally within the legislation.”
Mr Gear handballed responsibility for consultation to veteran councillor June Barton, who raised last month’s motion.
“June is a very experienced councillor and talks to people in her area, and she doesn’t put up things frivolously, so I sat up and took notice when she put it up.”
But he says he did not discuss the motion with her before it was raised.
Former mayor Russell Aubrey later took to social media saying he’d been unable to get into the chamber and couldn’t hear proceedings because the audio wasn’t working.
“The 50-year-lease potentially takes $20 a year out of … each ratepayer’s pockets and puts it into the bowling club kitty,” Mr Aubrey said.
“Melville ratepayers conned, hoodwinked and robbed again.”
by STEVE GRANT