Redland City Council’s non-public meetings

Redland City Council non-public meetings are the subject of an RTI request

Redland City Council’s use of non-public meetings raises questions about transparency

For some time Redlands2030 has been concerned about the amount of business transacted at secret meetings by Redland City Council.

In a democracy it’s normal for elected representatives to discuss issues, make decisions and legislate in public.

The media can report on what is being done and said. People can sit in a public gallery and see for themselves how democratic institutions work.

We have become used to the convenience of being able to watch Federal and State parliamentary debates on television or via the internet.

But in Redland City our elected representatives have developed a bad habit of conducting most of their deliberations in secret meetings. The public does not know what is going to be discussed and what is decided at these secret meetings which are often called ‘workshops’.

No agendas and minutes are published.

Requirements of the Local Government Act relating to declarations of conflicts of interest at public meetings are not observed at Redland City Council’s many non-public meetings.

Meanwhile, the general meetings held in public have often been brief affairs, where decisions about matters previously discussed (in secret) are rubber stamped with no serious debate.

Right to Information request about non-public meetings

In an attempt to prise open this can of worms, Redlands2030 submitted on 12 October 2016 a Right to Information (RTI) Request seeking details of:

Agendas and minutes for all meetings of elected councillors and officers which have not already been publicly disclosed on the Council’s website to include all meetings commonly referred to within Council as “workshops” and the meetings commonly referred to as “Mayor Councillor Meetings”. To include any other meeting about Council matters to which all councillors have been invited to attend.

The request covered the period from 19 March 2016 (election of the current Council) until 11 October 2016 (date of the request).

Following discussions with Council’s RTI decision maker, Redlands2030 agreed to narrow the scope of this particular request. The amended request was for Redland City Council to provide by 14 December 2016:

  • A list of all meetings and workshops  during the nominated period (19 March 2016 until 11 October2016) to which Mayor and all councillors were invited to attend including topic/title, date, time and venue of each meeting/workshop.
  • Copies of the agendas and minutes of all “Mayor/Councillor meetings”.

A list of non-public meetings is finally provided but…..

After the due date for responding to this RTI, the Council provided the required list of meetings but advised that the request for copies of agendas and minutes of the Mayor/Councillor meetings had been refused.

Council’s failure to respond by the due date (apparently an administrative error) constitutes a deemed refusal under Right to Information legislation. This means that the only recourse available to Redlands2030 is to ask the Queensland Office of the Information Commissioner to review Council’s deemed refusal.

It is likely that the review process will take some time which means that Redland City residents and rate payers will continue to be denied access to information about the matters being discussed by their Council and the defacto decisions being made by the Council.

It is quite likely that some of the councillors may continue to attend workshops or other non-public meetings about matters which are the subject of a conflict of interest or a perceived conflict of interest.

If you are concerned about Redland City Council’s secretive behaviour and lack of transparency, you could contact your divisional councillor and/or the Mayor and ask them to explain why so much Council business is being discussed at non-public meetings or ‘workshops’.

Here is a link to councillors’ contact details.

 

Redlands2030 – 6 January 2017

Please note: Offensive or off-topic comments will be deleted. If offended by any published comment please email thereporter@redlands2030.net

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8 thoughts on “Redland City Council’s non-public meetings

  1. When I was elected in 1994 there were about 5 committee meetings held each month. Health, Engineering, Planning and Environment, Parks and Finance . Each month there was a detailed agenda given to councillors about 5 days before the committee meeting and on the day the public was invited to listen to debate. Whilst very few attended during working hours everyone had the ability to read the agenda on line . The specific staff who write the report did a presentation and the final decision on all agendas was made at the General Meeting.
    My concerns are that Councillors who received donations from anyone especially developers are involved with the discussions behind closed doors but maybe announce their conflict at the General which is like closing the door after the horse has bolted. Those with a conflict have the ability to influence a decision . There is no accountability. There are no records of who attended the meetings behind closed doors. Thanks to the Council of 2004-2008 the Planning scheme was drafted and signed off by 6 people including Mayor Williams and John Burns Cr Julie Talty father , 5 Councillors voted against it, impact assessment was watered down and very few decisions of development are now recorded for public info

  2. Re: Scenic Rim Council Administration.
    Herewith is a different style of local government to that of Redland City Council committed to it seems conducting business as usual in secret, as one Cr stopped me mid-sentence many moons ago, stating ‘done deal Amy’ after which I no longer made the mistake of driving to council to make a comment about any issue no matter how damaging to my lifestyle or wellbeing of local residents as decisions were already made…behind closed doors .
    Having spent Christmas on Mount Tamborine with friends, enjoyed reading Mayor Greg Christensen’s Column for Dec 2016.. some of which he had to say will share with you all and I quote:
    Over past several months, have had chance to engage with countless individuals & groups, all of whom share a passion to make their communities a better place.
    I am committed to harnessing this energy and providing the tools for us to work together across the region. What we can achieve together will be so much greater than what could ever be done in isolation. Collaboration is the key to unlocking the opportunities ahead for the Scenic Rim in 2017 and beyond.
    Whether it is Council working with community & other levels of govt or businesses leveraging off each other, we all have a role to play in advancing the shared vision of the Scenic Rim Community Plan. I believe Scenic Rim will continue to be a bright, shining light in SEQ, a region which demonstrates what a BIG community can do, even though we might be small in number.
    Importantly it will be a region which places the ideals of respect and inclusion at the centre of its thinking.
    Central to liveability is creating spaces and places within our towns & villages which attract people, from vibrant trading centres to playgrounds and parks.
    There will also be challenges ahead, but I have every confidence our collective energy, our collective wisdom and our collective love of this region will lift us to success”.
    What can we, the people of Redlands, expect to see in our Community Plan in 2017, more of the same or much needed changes to create a better place to live, work and play?

  3. Wow this is sounding like the issues setup by the previous management committee at Bay FM.
    Why all this cloak & dagger in the Redlands? It’s not like someone’s building a secret gambling den or hidden cruise ship dock…

  4. Some persons in koala suits have been chucked out of these in camera meetings , but have not been identified. But did they get away with the chained up minutes?

    It is relevant to see if other govt agencies were involved or observed in those meetings , then they also can be RTI’d.
    It may be relevant to get a short pro bono opinion from some legal aid office before you see the Information Commissioner.

  5. This Council leaves a lot to be desired. I am quite sure the people who elected these Councillors were not aware that this was the way Council Meetings are being run. What can they possibly have to hide? This is sounding more like a Russian Pogrom than an Australian Local Government Council. We must demand that Council Meetings be held in public.

    • Dear Redlands 2030
      I am more than happy to do away with elected members of the community entrusted to advocate legally and ethically known as Councillors and just have the State government act.
      In its simplest form the idea of having a trusted representative is so there is not 10000 residents from each division all sitting at the table. Can it be improved absolutely it can.
      I find this rather amusing even though to the general public this would appear to be quite alarming; given the topic is ‘secret meetings’ and the imputation is that I and my colleagues , as elected Councillors would knowingly take part in an action that would be deemed sneaky and untoward and not displaying any integrity or would be unlawful.
      As a freshly elected Councillor only having been in the position since April 2016, I find it quite appalling, that not only this post but other posts are conveniently wrapping all of us up into a nice neat package of bullying, allegations of corruption and processes that are deemed unlawful, especially as most in the general public are not aware of the legal rules to do with the power of delegated authority and the fact that council the organisation is very different to Councillors.
      An example of this is the Ombudsman report which was first initiated in 2015 when the initial media reports and investigation was drafted and it was made known to the public in the Redland City Bulletin prior to the 2016 elections.
      This has now been posted with a headline as if it was the current councils doing, which is highly unethical and plays on the fact that the large majority of people will only read the headline and not have the understanding that it was two individuals from the 2015 term of council that brought the action of defamation upon residents.
      I would like it noted that I have responded to Redlands2030 via Mr Tom Taranto about the matter of secret meetings previously and I can assure the public that there are no such “in chambers meetings or workshops” that are designed to keep the public in the dark.
      Now to be frank and open and direct, to my knowledge all important decisions are brought before the general meeting that is open to the public and the media, just like question time at a federal level.
      I need to address the legal matters at hand and would suggest that any Councillor regardless, is by law obliged to represent the city as a whole first and then the division second. This is listed in the local government act.
      I would also like to note that there are such legal parameters as, commercial in confidence and council the organisation is broken into 2 parts, a business and the elected community members. Those same elected community members act in a capacity of company director and are if required offered to conduct the company directors training. However by law we have no authority to direct council staff, apart from the mayor who has the power to direct the CEO and general managers. The down side of this is the organisation gets to hide behind and election every 4 years and the elected representative’s end up as the fall guy for the organisation.
      Point to note: Not everything comes to Councillors for decision, there are 1000 staff employed.
      In the matter of development, Councillors get a list of applications by division weekly and they range from mums and dads wanting to put up a garage to larger developments. The smaller applications outweigh the larger ten fold.
      The list of meetings is endless and I would challenge and welcome anyone wanting to sit in chambers 5 days a week watching anything up to 10 hours of business meetings that involve some of the following to come along:
      So our meetings quite seriously revolve around the following; Disciplinary approaches (code of conduct), purchasing of goods and services, scheduling of other meetings, interest groups i.e. the citizen jury idea, upcoming projects that need to be ironed out properly in order to get the facts straight like my parks projects, budget meetings, development and planning, city plan, training on how to be a Councillor, legal briefs, security and risk assessment briefs, team building, professional development, economic development, job creation, employment strategies, sewridge, accounting, law, hospitals and where to have them, transport and connectivity, how to get better internet, animal management, fleet services, property acquisition away from developers, staff well-being, environmental strategies which doesn’t mean GREEN it means the entire environment we live in and the list goes on. Does the general public really want to sit in on every meeting we hold as Councillors? The first 3 months in, was based on courses of, so you want to be a Councillor the do’s and don’ts. Some of our meetings involve administration aspects of staff and how emails can be more inclusive.
      It’s so easy sitting on the sidelines calling the shots and I was guilty of this to organisation.
      I for one have found the position to be a very steep learning curve and I’m still learning and I am genuinely not hiding anything from the public and would welcome the public to come in and watch the meetings if so desired.
      My door is always open.

      • Paul, I have mentioned this fact countless times, that every councillor is obliged by law to represent the whole city and not their own divisions. Congratulation for pointing this out again, Paul. But what about a certain councillor, who is always against decisions in favour of the Southern Moreton Bay Islands. I only mention the catchphrase B52.

  6. ‘Requirements of the Local Government Act relating to declarations of conflicts of interest at public meetings are not observed at Redland City Council’s many non-public meetings.’
    How can this be legal? It shouldn’t matter how or where or when discussions (formal or casual) about (for example) development applications or approvals are held, a conflict of interest is still a conflict of interest. To allow any councillor to participate in and potentially influence any decision where there is a conflict of interest is morally unjustifiable.
    This whole secrecy issue is a real worry. Is it any wonder very few constituents trust this council to make decisions in the community’s best interests? The evidence suggests that it isn’t!