Stand-off stalemate: Disclosure ruling an‘invasion of privacy’

COUNCIL has called in solicitors to resolve a stalemate after coming to loggerheads with one of its own committees.

In June 2013, council passed a resolution requiring committee members to declare their business interests for transparency purposes, but 30 percent of committee members consider the reporting standards too onerous and refused to comply.

The bulk of those refusing the new disclosure standards are members of the Business Development and Major Projects Committee, who were still meeting as per usual.

Council executive services manager Shireen Donaldson said annual disclosure forms were due in September and repeated reminders had been sent to committee members who had not submitted them.

“We’ve got to a stage where there is a potential breach and councillors need to work out what we’re going to do about it,” Mrs Donaldson said.

“Council has contacted the division of local government for advice on the options available to us. In the meantime, the Business Development and Major Projects Management Committee is still operating as if it is business as usual.”

The suggestions of a report into the matter were not due until February.

A member of the business committee who has declined to submit the disclosure form, businessman Paul Pierotti, has labeled the disclosure requirements “unnecessary and onerous”. 

“The parameters they’ve put on volunteer community representatives is well beyond that of any other council I know of,” Mr Pierotti said.

“This level of scrutiny should be reserved for councillors, mayors or senior council workers.

“It’s a complete invasion of privacy as you have to disclose every detail of your business and property assets and a complete history of all your transactions.

“It hinders the ability for good community representation, as people who volunteer their time and effort will be turned off to avoid this level of scrutiny on personal assets and business responsibilities.”

Mr Pierotti called on councillors to reverse their decision on disclosure.

One of those councilors who recommended the new requirement in June, Bill Lancaster, said the committees made management decisions and the ratepayers needed confidence those decisions were all above board. 

“An observer may consider whether the decision of the business committee could be influenced by private interests,” Mr Lancaster said.

“Most of the things that happen at council are the result of committee decisions so you need these safeguards in place.”

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