Councillor: ‘It’s jail time if we get this wrong’
Letter to the editor by Gympie councillor Bruce Devereaux:
IN RESPONSE to Merv Welch (GT June 13, 2020):
One of the things I will miss most about a print Gympie Times, particularly Saturday's, is the opportunity for letters like Merv's and mine to reach a wider audience. I have always enjoyed reading well thought out arguments for or against something topical, even if I don't necessarily always agree.
I think in an era when the best we can hope for from many politicians is their total public commitment to the concept rather than the reality of openness and transparency, letters to the editor calling our elected officials out are all the more important.
And I understand Merv's frustration from watching live streaming of us on more than one occasion being warned at length why we shouldn't do something which I myself thought would be a simple show of hands at the first official council meeting.
The simplest thing in the world to have done the last couple of months is to have issued a public statement to say we tried but the fix is in and none of us want to go to jail for momentarily overlooking some thin connection - or worse, someone else's thin connection - to a topic we're discussing out of the blue. Instead, what I'd hope people are noticing is we're pushing back hard on the advice we were given on the very first morning of our very first collective councillor briefing where the fear of god was spelt out in enormous burning letters regarding this topic.
I want to assure Merv and any other disheartened residents of not only my personal commitment to finding a path forward to keep what was not only an election promise but a fundamental core of what I think good governance should look like, but to point out not one councillor sitting at those tables is yet to say something along the lines of, "It's too hard. Forget it."
Furthermore, I think Mayor Hartwig's explanation of some of the difficulties faced under a past council in terms of councillors being unable to put up questions was a compelling argument for us to continue to push on.
Remembering there are likely some people about who would like nothing better than to catch any one of this current batch of councillors out on a COI breech to cause problems I think we are approaching this in about as sensible a way as possible: carefully.
I want the ability to ask questions without notice as much as it would seem you want me to, Merv. The difference here is, due to increasingly stringent whipping boy legislation set by the State which even they don't appear to have to abide by, I'm the one risking jail time away from my loved ones if we get this wrong. So I guess I'm respectfully asking you to please grant us just a little longer to get this as right as we can.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy this councillor gig, but I enjoy far, far more time spent with my wife and kids and visiting hours just won't cut it.
Bruce Devereaux, GRC councillor
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