Gag claims as council sits silent

IT TOOK Donna Pinkerton only five minutes on Thursday night to make Coffs Harbour City Council look very ordinary.

The Coffs Harbour businesswoman, whose vocal supporters filled the council chamber's public gallery to hear her address, claimed some councillors and senior officers were operating outside the council's own guidelines.

She also believed the council 'does not know how to handle its own business'.

In May, Mrs Pinkerton lodged Code of Conduct complaints about general manager Stephen Sawtell, mayor Keith Rhoades and Cr Ian Ovens after requesting information about the process used to sack the council's assistant general manager Kyme Lavelle.

At the start of Thursday's meeting, Cr Rhoades told Mrs Pinkerton to contain her address to what she had originally sought - to talk about the council's customer service guarantee and appropriate response times to correspondence on Code of Conduct complaints.

When she was left with the impression she shouldn't mention the council's handling of the Lavelle saga, the gallery erupted into boos and chants of 'Zimbabwe', and 'put the gag on'.

In her address, Mrs Pinkerton said there was a 'serious breakdown of customer service delivery in the largest public organisation in the city', and she feared the council had not dealt with her complaints according to its own policies and they would 'never see the light of day'.

She said councillors were 'more than aware of my concerns'.

"Councillors, I and the community are not happy with the management of my complaints.

"They should have warranted immediate and prompt compliance with these published policies.

"I would hope that before councillors go into caretaker mode prior to the election, each of you will acknowledge, recognise and operate within your own policies. You were elected to represent us and maintain the high standards set out in your own Code of Conduct.

"In particular, my correspondence to the mayor went unanswered by him for six weeks, despite the fact he received my correspondence prior to taking leave. I am yet to hear from the general manager."

Mrs Pinkerton said the 'lengthy delays' experienced so far in replying to her 'serious complaints' were detrimental to the office and image of the general manager and mayor.

Councillors and senior staff listened politely, and moved on to council business following the address.

However, much of the gallery emptied when Mrs Pinkerton immediately left the chamber.


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