By Jess Baker
Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi has announced he is no longer asking the council to approve his ‘innovation mentoring program’.
The news comes one week after a heated debate erupted at an ordinary meeting of Southern Downs Regional Council, where several councillors expressed their concerns with the group.
Councillors Jo McNally, Sheryl Windle, and Cynthia McDonald were particularly vocal about their reservations, stating during the meeting that aspects of the group were “not transparent” and undemocratic.
Cr McNally told Cr Pennisi there was no trust within the chambers of the council, as neither she nor any other councillor knew the identities of the members of the committee.
“These people have been handpicked. It’s not democracy,” Cr McNally said.
This morning, Cr Pennisi announced he would no longer pursue the implementation of a ‘mentoring program’.
He explained that he had had mentors all of his life, as many others had, and the intent of the program was to progress his own personal and professional development for the “betterment of the community, and the organisation” in his role as mayor.
“In an effort to be transparent I declared to the world that I was considering such a group,” Cr Pennisi said.
“It is not uncommon for mayors to have such a group and in fact the Local Government Act now allows some mayors to have personal advisors.
“It was not my intention to disclose the identity of these people until such time as they had firmly agreed to participate.”
Cr Pennisi said that once members had agreed to participate, councillors, council staff, and the community would have been informed about who were members of the committee.
“My commitment to the ratepayers is to continue my focus on putting downward pressure on rates, restoring relationships, increasing transparency, engaging with the public in a meaningful way, looking for increased funding opportunities, resolving our water issues, introducing open, transparent and robust debate into the chambers, and all of those advocacy issues that you elected me on,” he said.
“It is sad that I could not implement this powerful tool to improve your future and the future of our children and our grandchildren, but I respect the democratic process.”