Mayor Denise Knight was “gutted” by the walkout staged by four councillors last week.
Mayor Denise Knight was “gutted” by the walkout staged by four councillors last week.

Mayor cancels holiday to deal with crisis

MAYOR Denise Knight has cancelled an overseas holiday to deal with the crisis over the Cultural and Civic Space.

Cr Knight has also outlined how Thursday evening's Coffs Harbour City Council meeting will proceed after the extraordinary walkout of four councillors on July 26 and from another meeting reconvened the next day in an attempt to resolve the matter.

A rescission motion, put forward by Councillor Keith Rhoades, to delay the $76.5 million project was up for consideration with councillors split four-four.

As it appeared Cr Knight might use her casting vote to defeat the rescission (allowing the decision of July 11 to proceed to detailed design and construction stage to go ahead) Crs Tegan Swan, Keith Rhoades, Paul Amos and John Arkan walked out, leaving the packed gallery and remaining four councillors stunned.

The action denied council a quorum, something the Office of Local Government has warned is a breach of conduct.

"I was gutted. It came completely out of the blue," Cr Knight said.

Crs Tegan Swan, John Arkan and Paul Amos (above) along with Keith Rhoades walked out.
Crs Tegan Swan, John Arkan and Paul Amos (above) along with Keith Rhoades walked out.

With the matter in limbo Cr Knight was faced with the difficult decision of postponing the overseas holiday she had planned to celebrate her husband's 70th birthday.

"We were going to Finland, Slovenia and Spain. We had booked it over a year ago and were due to fly out that Saturday but were forced to cancel it because of the walkout," Cr Knight said.

"It was very disappointing specially for Chris. It was our decision but we were forced to do it really."

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Some have speculated the councillors against the project who walked out, knew of her holiday plans and staged the action as a delaying tactic to rule out her casting vote this week.

Cr Knight has confirmed this week's meeting will continue where last week's left off and believes another walkout will not be tolerated by the authorities.

"The Office of Local Government is already aware of the misconduct so presumably they will step in," Cr Knight says.

In relation to the possibility of another rescission motion if this one gets defeated she has clarified that there cannot be another rescission motion on the same matter for another three months.

She will be meeting with all councillors on Tuesday afternoon after their regular pre-meeting briefing with senior staff.

"It won't be about the rescission motion. The meeting will be about how we can continue to work together from now on because we still have to work together," Cr Knight said.

"We still have little over a year to make decisions and we need to be cohesive and work together."

If they have a quorum and the vote goes ahead it will be a long night with all the matters from the disbanded July 26 meeting carried over to be discussed along with a whole range of new items.

"I have no idea how it wall all pan out but I'm hoping we will have a quorum so we can get business done and do what we're meant to do which is make some decisions."

The meeting will begin at 5pm on Thursday.



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