SPEAKING to the Mail-Times on Tuesday, Mr Bhalla said Cr Robinson had not submitted "anything" to the council regarding his intention to step aside.
He said if Cr Robinson was going to resign, he would have to notify the chief executive, however leave of absences from council had to be approved by the council itself at a formal council meeting.
He also said Wednesday's meeting would still ahead without Cr Robinson.
"There will be an opportunity for another councillor to move Cr Robinson's rescission motion. If it isn't moved or seconded, the motion then lapses," he said.
"I'm here to support all the councillors so they can perform their represented duties, and I will continue to do that."
Update, July 2, 10am:
A HORSHAM Rural City Council spokesman said chief executive Sunil Bhalla would not be conducting interviews with the media regarding this issue.
HORSHAM Rural City Council chief executive Sunil Bhalla has responded to the claims Councillor John Robinson made to the Mail-Times.
The Mail-Times repeatedly sought an interview with Mr Bhalla, however was provided with the statement below instead.
Read Mr Bhalla's full statement:
Council's chief executive Sunil Bhalla has addressed claims made by Councillor John Robinson.
Mr Bhalla said it was "disappointing" Cr Robinson would not attend Wednesday's Special Council Meeting.
He also responded to the following statements:
- Cr Robinson alleged the Special Council Meeting was called without consulting him or other Councillors regarding their availability: "The Mayor requested that a Special Meeting be arranged as soon as possible. All councillors were given seven days' notice of the Special Meeting on July 3 which conforms with the requirements of the Local Government Act 1989," Mr Bhalla said.
- Cr Robinson states that Councillors had just 30 minutes to review the Draft City to River Masterplan before a Councillor briefing meeting on June 11: "All councillors have been given the opportunity to be involved in the development of the Draft Masterplan, starting with the first councillor briefing in August 2018. There were follow-up City to River briefing sessions and a dedicated workshop held specifically for councillors on March 26, which Cr Robinson attended. The Draft Masterplan was available to all councillors on June 7 ahead of the most recent councillor briefing session on June 11 and the Council Meeting on 24 June," Mr Bhalla said.
- User groups involved in the City to River Vision have already been told by council officers that they will be removed - before council has made any decisions: "HRCC has met with representatives of all user groups in person. It was communicated that the draft plan developed by consultancy firm Urban Enterprise proposed a 20-year vision that involved transformation for several user groups. It was stated that the proposed plan was a draft and it would need to be resolved by council to make it available for public exhibition which would provide an opportunity for feedback on the proposal by the user groups," Mr Bhalla said.
HORSHAM councillor John Robinson will step aside from his position until the council's Wimmera River and Central Activities District Plan is resolved.
At the council's June meeting last week, Cr Robinson signalled his intent to move a rescission motion immediately after council voted in favour of putting the plan on public exhibition for 28 days.
Mayor Mark Radford then called a special council meeting for Wednesday to discuss the rescission motion.
Cr Robinson alleges Cr Radford called the special meeting without consulting him or other councillors regarding their availability.
"They have failed to consider the very reason for the rescission motion and also are uncaring that I have a specialist commitment away from Horsham that I am unable to break," he said.
Cr Robinson said he had experienced "significant difficulties" in conducting council business.
"It's very hard to get community issues up-and-running. It concerns me that we aren't following the council's plan," he said.
He said councillors only had "about 30 minutes" to read the the CAD and river precinct plan themselves before a briefing meeting.
"In the short time that was available, it was clear that there were a number of faults that stood out - some of the things in it are not realistic," he said.
"It's okay to say that it's a vision plan, but there are things in there that need to be identified from the outset."
In a letter to the Mail-Times, Cr Robinson said if the community was not happy with the processes and representation provided by the council, it might need to "seek a remedy".
He suggested this might require communication with Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek.
"Horsham Rural City Council is not operating in the best interests of the community, nor is it operating in accordance with basic governance standards mandated by the Local Government Act and expected by Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek. I am unable to provide effective representation," he said.
"I advise that it is my intention to stand aside as a councillor of Horsham Rural City Council until this position is resolved."
Cr Robinson said he was yet to inform council's chief executive Sunil Bhalla about his intention to step aside.
"You don't do something like this lightly; this isn't the first time I've considered it," Cr Robinson said.
A government spokesperson said a councillor remained entitled to receive their councillor allowance while absent from performing the councillor role.
However, there were exceptions:
- A councillor is suspended by an Order in Council (the allowance is not paid during the suspension period); or
- A councillor has appealed a criminal conviction that would disqualify them from continuing as a councillor, and the appeal remains afoot (the allowance is withheld during this period. If the appeal is quashed or set aside, the withheld allowances are returned to the councillor).
- A councillor has been stood down by Order in Council pending the outcome of an application of serious misconduct or gross misconduct against the councillor (the allowance is withheld during this period. If there is subsequently no finding of serious/gross misconduct, the withheld allowances are returned to the councillor)
- A councillor who is absent from four consecutive ordinary meetings of the council without leave being obtained from the council, ceases to be a councillor and their position becomes vacant.
- The Local Government Inspectorate is responsible for investigating alleged breaches of the Local Government Act.
"I trust all parties within the council are doing what's necessary to ensure this matter is handled with integrity and in the best interests of the local community," the spokesperson said.
"It would be inappropriate to make further comment on this situation without further information."
The Mail-Times has contacted Horsham Rural City Council chief executive Sunil Bhalla for comment. Horsham Mayor Mark Radford said the council would release a statement.
It also contacted the Municipal Association of Victoria. A spokeswoman said it would be "inappropriate" to comment on the incident.
More to come.
Read Councillor Robinson's full letter below:
As your readers would be aware Horsham Rural City Council moved to release a long term Wimmera River and Central Activities District Plan at its 24th June meeting and also that I advised intention to rescind this motion at the same meeting.
In the brief Plan overview afforded to Councillors, sufficient flaws and governance issues were identified to warrant a closer look prior to official release. The placement of a civic green in the middle of the current police station realistically means that we would never see the much desired civic open space. The Council Plan, ratified at the same meeting directs us to seek alternative locations for the failed multi-user sports stadium. Clearly the proposed site is not well supported by the community, has critical unresolved issues and has been the subject of information gatekeeping.
It is concerning that community and sporting groups with a combined total of about 250 years of service have already been told by council Officers that they will be removed - before Council have made any decisions. A question is who actually runs Council?
My notice of rescission allows those Councillors who care, the opportunity to research, to reconsider and do what we are elected to do - consult with affected community groups.
Local Law 1 determines the rescission notice process which I have followed in good faith, including specifying of the hearing date (22nd of July) - our next ordinary meeting. Mayor Radford has used exactly the same process in the past - without interference.
What is different in this case is that Mayor Radford and CEO Bhalla decided to compress timeframes dramatically (to the 3rd of July) with absolutely no discussion with myself. They have failed to consider the very reason for the rescission motion and also are uncaring that I have a specialist comuitment away from Horsham that I am unable to break.
So whilst I (and one other Councillor) actually meet with affected groups and look to solutions the Mayor and the CEO are chasing another costly legal opinion to justify departing from the authorised meeting procedure - a procedure that they put in place.
Unfortunately this pattern is all too familiar, on nearly every project or proposal that I have put up on behalf of the community and many debates I have engaged in I have encountered illogical resistance, low grade legal opinions or have been denied procedural fairness by inconsistent rule application. It is concerning that the only reason that this behaviour exists is that those with the power to set the standards tolerate the behaviour, by their silence.
Repeated unreasonable behaviour is bullying and bullying is unacceptable in any form, be it personal or against community groups.
Horsham Rural City Council is not operating in the best interests of the community nor is it operating in accordance with basic governance standards mandated by the Local Government Act and expected by Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek. I am unable to provide effective representation.
I advise that it is my intention to stand aside as a Councillor of Horsham Rural City Council until this position is resolved. It is appropriate that the community decides if it is happy with the processes and representation provided by its Council and if not, seeks a remedy. This may require communication with Minister Somyurek.
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