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.