Gloves off as rugby boss slams council duo for alleged bias
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
I AM writing to you in frustration based on disappointment in the mayor as so called leader for the (whole) community.
Myself as a person who promotes, sponsors, coaches, manages and watches many sports in our great town, I feel I have a good grasp on what’s right and wrong in society to make this call on the handling of this equality issue.
I also have the right to show my disappointment in what Mick Curran has said he would do, but has not, and in fact his actions or lack of has the situation now to a stage that sees a Code of Conduct and integrity being questioned.
In August 2018, when I became president of the Gympie Rugby Union Club, I discovered a long standing arrangement that showed one club being disadvantaged financially and socially more than others.
As I’m a supporter and sponsor of both clubs involved, I took the issue to the top man - mayor Mick Curran - and tabled the serious issue and asked him to have a look at the issue and hopefully find some equality on the matter without becoming common knowledge to the whole community, as I wanted to save the embarrassment to those who have taken the advantage.
Knowing of the mayor’s well documented involvement for many years in rugby league, I thought he could find a way to at least get both clubs to a meeting to resolve and save the issue becoming public knowledge; I did this out of respect for a club I put many hours into personally over a 10-year period.
In this period of time I was working closely with council staff to find a solution to avoid needing to use the Jack Stokes (ovals) facility and avoid the current conflict and shared this detail several times with Mr Curran himself.
On December 6, 2019, a detailed email was sent to the mayor, that shared only facts that showed a lease in place for Jack Stokes (oval) for $112 per year that was up for review in March 2019.
Dealings with Gympie Regional Council showed that a review was warranted on this and conditions could be applied to the lease to stop the price gouging and the bullying we were exposed to regarding field allocation.
I had also spoken to Bob Leitch in detail but had told Bob that the mayor said he would sort it. Boy, was I wrong to put faith in them on this matter.
The detailed email shared the truths that even though a lease was in place for GRC owned land for $112 a year (Gympie Junior Rugby League) they were then charging a not-for-profit club (the rugby union club) $175 per day.
I also pointed out that council minutes showed that GRC ratepayers paid over $14,000 per year to maintain the fields.
All this was being done whilst profiting from a club trying to grow and gets kids into sport.
I also pointed out the cost we had to experience because we were not given access to a canteen.
The deal saw the Hammers exposed to costs of $7300 in 2019 due to having one place to call home. Although, verbally informed he was looking into it, we are still facing similar costs for 2020 and still have no option due to the blocking at the only other field with lights.
On May 22, the council minutes show that the mayor and Bob Leitch declared a conflict of interest to rugby league, but then asked councillors to both be involved in the conversation and vote to roll the GJRL lease for a 10-year period.
The minutes show clearly that the mayor and Mr Leitch, who both held key information supported by fact on several occasions prior to the meeting, chose to keep this information out of the conversation.
They chose to not share the key information that would have opened discussion to right a wrong that could have been resolved in a fair and equitable way.
I believe the councillor Code of Conduct that clearly states the withholding of information that can have effect on community is a breach of the conduct. I have asked for this to be investigated through the right avenues.
To further add to the disgust, I emailed every standing councillor individually and asked had the mayor or Mr Leitch ever informed them of the Hammers’ field shortage and cost issue?
Only five responded, with all bar one saying they had never been notified of the issue. And the one who had was informed by a council staff member who I was dealing with. Several councillors chose not to return emails when questioned.
I have put in an official complaint to the CEO on the matter of the withholding information and await a response. And have also reported the concerns to a higher body to have investigated.
I had chosen to not write this letter, but then listened to the mayor on the Gympie Seriously podcast last week where he made comment of what he stood for as a mayor: transparency.
Unfortunately, my trust has been broken with both of them due to you not offering what you promise and your honesty and integrity are now in question.
I gave Mick Curran every opportunity to do the right thing on this matter to resolve and attempt to change my mind on his doings or lack of by returning an email like again you talk about in your spiel and you have not.
Jason McPherson, Gympie Hammers Rugby Union Club president