Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Council ends on a confidential note

Last night's Darebin Council meeting was the last before the election of a new four-year Council on 29 November. It finished with the confidential consideration of a planning matter from which the public gallery was excluded.

The item was introduced as 'urgent business' by Darebin CEO, Michael Ulbrick, but no mention was made in the papers released for the meeting. This final, confidential note to Council proceedings this term follows a jump in confidential items considered by Council over 2007-2008 (9%).

While some items ought to be considered on a confidential basis, they should be more clearly identified than a brief verbal mention at the end of a public meeting. While an item might well arise too late to be listed in the Council meeting papers, such cases should be covered by the distribution of a simple addendum on a single sheet of paper that could be left on the chairs of the gallery, as are other related meeting papers. The addendum should clearly identify the matter being considered, and the reasons for its confidentiality.

That Council closed its doors for the confidential consideration of a planning matter just before the election may, in the absence of simple steps to promote transparency, lead to the conclusion that the secrecy is politically motivated.

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